Hannah Kahn Bio
video of Hannah Kahn
Hannah Kahn was born on June 30, 1911 in New York . She quit school at age l6 for menial jobs such as being a waitress and wrapping gifts at Macy's. She earned her G.E.D. in her fifties and graduated from college in her sixties. All the while she worked full time for a local furniture manufacturer, beginning in 1936 as a clerk and ending up as manager of their showroom until her retirement in 1987. In the 1960's, she served as Poetry Editor for the Miami Herald and was very active with the local ARC (Association for Retarded Citizens). In addition to raising her own family (two sons and a daughter), she always found time to encourage and assist a wide variety of students and friends with their poetry efforts. She pursued many time-consuming projects such as judging national poetry contests for high school contestants and giving poetry readings both locally and nationally. She always had time for others and was a very devoted grandmother to her five grandchildren, as well as being a devoted mother to her handicapped daughter, Vivian, who resided with Hannah right up to the end of Hannah's life in February, 1988. Hannah once remarked to an interviewer that she liked her life, but not necessarily all the facts in her life. Her poetry was versatile as well as universal, the common denominators being intensity and depth.
However, in her personal life, she had a tremendous sense of humor and accepted human frailty in others as well as herself. She could muster a hearty laugh even when she was the brunt of the humor. As an artist with words, she would receive an inspiration and grab a pen, and more often than not, "a poem was born." Undoubtedly, her most famous poem was/is "Ride a Wild Horse," which has been reprinted in several high school and college textbooks throughout the United States. The poem has a special appeal to young and old.
An example of her self-effacement is contained in her biographically accurate poem called “FAMILY TREE”:
During World War II, she wrote a poem called "Soldier's Wife." The editor of Stars & Stripes incorrectly assumed that Hannah had a husband in the military and requested her permission to reprint it for the benefit of active duty personnel around the world. This particular poem about deep love was an example of Hannah 's ability to share the feelings of women trying to send an emotional message to their husbands serving abroad:
One of Hannah 's poems, “Time of Snow,” won the national award from the Poetry Society of America. Any adult who has lost a parent could identify with these beautiful words so eloquently expressed:
(An interesting side note is that Hannah loved doing the Double Crostic Puzzles contained on the back page of the Saturday Review of Literature. As she filled in some of the words, she experienced a feeling of familiarity until she realized that the content of the puzzle was her own poem, “Time of Snow.”)As the writer of this article, I would like to take poetic liberty by closing with my Hannah Kahn favorite, a poem which illustrates her deep ethnocentrism and appreciation for all cultures having their influence on her own humanity. The poem is called “Heritage”:
Site design and graphics by Ben Walker, email@example.com
Copyright 2004, Hannah Kahn Poetry Foundation