Tuesday 19 December 2017


MIKHL NATISH (June 2, 1906-January 25, 1937)
            Pseudonym of Mikhl Shutan, he was born in Sventsyan (Svencionys), Vilna district, Lithuania, into a working class family—his father was a bricklayer.  He studied in religious elementary schools, and later in a public school and the Svencionys Jewish high school.  In 1928 he was studying at the Jewish Studies Institute in Warsaw, but due to material difficulties he had to interrupt his studies.  He went on later to work as a teacher in secular Jewish schools in various provincial towns.  He debuted in print in the journal Shprotsungen (Sprouts) in Warsaw (1925), and from that point he published poetry in: Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm), Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper), Vokhnshriftn far literatur (Weekly writing for literature), and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves)—in Warsaw; Vilner tog (Vilna day) in Vilna; and Bleter far dikhtung un kunst (Pages for poetry and art) in Berlin (1931-1932); among others.  In 1935 he was a research student in the Tsemakh Shabad research program at YIVO, and he wrote the monograph Elementn fun dinezons perzenlekhkeyt (Elements of Dinezon’s personality), a chapter of which was published in Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) in Vilna 10.1-2 (1936), pp. 31-39.  In book form, he published: Mulyer hirsh (Hirsh the bricklayer), poems (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1934), 120 pp.; Taybelekh (Little doves) (Warsaw: Kinder-fraynd, 1935), 20 pp., second edition (1935-1936); Dray grine koyshelekh (Three green baskets) (Warsaw: Kinder-fraynd, 1937), 16 pp.  He also wrote children’s stories and book reviews, and he published a lengthy reportage piece on the social station of the young writers group in Warsaw in the 1930s.  His poem Mulyer hirsh was dedicated to his father with his family amid the laboring Jews in the small Lithuanian town on the eve of WWII.  Natish suffered for many years from an incurable stomach ailment and after an operation died in a Vilna hospital.  “Mikhl Natish began to write very early on,” wrote Borekh Gelman, “and he excelled in his work for the simplicity and clarity of his image, the sincerity of feeling and the truthfulness of his mood….  Mainly, he wrote about the shtetl, though more than anything he loved to write about his own home, about his father the goodhearted laborer full of folk wisdom, the bricklayer, and about his proletarian family.  His principal theme was the small-town proletariat; his beloved heroes in his writings were blacksmiths, coachmen, carpenters, masons, and overall, laborers who honestly earned their bit of bread with the sweat of their brow and with the toil of the fingers of their hands.  He felt their longing and sadness personally; he sympathized with their sufferings and rejoiced with their happiness….  His works breathed with a powerful social protest for the enslaved and humiliated.  —Just when his talent was coming into full bloom, and the fruits of the poet’s writings were beginning to ripen, at the moment of his ascendance in his work, his young life was snuffed out.”

Sources: M. Taykhman, in Vokhnshrift far literatur (Warsaw) (April 25, 1934); Taykhman, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 5, 1937); Y. Rapaport, in Vokhnshrift far literatur (June 14, 1934); Rapaport, in Vilner tog (Vilna) (February 5, 1937); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (Autumn 1934); Y. Brinman, in Di vokh (Bucharest) (1934); B. Gelman, in Folkstsaytung (Warsaw) (January 31, 1937); Gelman, in Yugnt-veker (Warsaw) 5 (1937); P. Shvarts, in Yugnt-veker (5 (1937); Sh. Lastik, in Literarishe bleter (January 14, 1938); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Literarishe bleter (June 10, 1938); Shulman, Yung vilne, 1929-1939 (Young Vilna, 1929-1939) (New York, 1946), p. 20; Yedies fun yivo (Vilna) 5-6 (75-76); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945), pp. 138-40; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Di geshikhte fun yidishn shulvezn in umophengikn poyln (The history of the Jewish school system in independent Poland) (Mexico City, 1947), p. 264; Shmerke katsherginski-ondenk-bukh (Memory volume for Shmerke Katsherginski) (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 278; Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen-biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 4801.
Benyomen Elis


  1. Joshua, thanks for translating this. Natish was my great uncle (my paternal grandmother´s brother) I hace been trying to find more about him and had this in Yiddish which I do not speak. I have already found at Yivo his two published children's books, Do you have any idea of where can the Hirsh poem found? I am a poet and live in Colombia, South America. Sara Szutan arrived here in 1933. Thanks

  2. Thank you for your note. I'm afraid I am only the the translator. I wish I knew more, but perhaps other readers will be able to help.