Karl Stamm was born in Wädenswil on Lake Zürich, the sixth of nine children of a glass and porcelain salesman. His mother Anna died when he was eight and his grandmother Sarah Stamm came to care for the family. Even as a young boy, Karl showed much interest and talent for drawing and literature. In 1906 he began teacher training at the Seminar in Küsnacht and from 1910-1914 was a primary school teacher in in Lipperschwändi near Bauma. In 1914 he moved to a school in Zürich.

After the start of the first world war, Karl Stamm was obliged to join the Swiss army and served at the country’s border. Initially, he showed patriotic enthusiasm, but as time progressed, he became increasingly troubled by the suffering of those involved. Quite a number his poems show deep distress over the character of the war. After a nervous breakdown in April 1917 and a longer stay in hospital he was discharged from the army. Karl Stamm died in March 1919 after contracting the Spanish flu.

His small oeuvre consists almost entirely of lyrics; his early poems are mainly in conventional and epigone styles, though his later work is influenced by expressionism. His first published collections of poems were Das Hohelied. Lyrische Dichtungen (1913) and Aus dem Tornister (with Marcel Brom and Paul H. Burkhard, 1915). These were followed by Die Kinder im Schlaraffenland, poems with watercolours by Hans Witzig (1917) and Der Aufbruch des Herzens (1919). A set of two volumes containing his collected works was published posthumously by his friend, the artist Eduard Gubler in 1920.

Writings and References

K. Stamm, Dichtungen. Collected works, edited with a biographical portrait by E. Gubler. 2 vols. Rascher Verlag, Zürich 1920
Briefe von Karl Stamm. (Collected Letters, edited and introduced by E. Gubler) Rascher Verlag, Zürich 1931.
C. Linsmayer, short biography: http://www.linsmayer.ch/autoren/S/StammKarl.html, accessed August 2014.
C. Furger: Karl Stamm, in: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, accessed August 2014.

This entry is written by Penelope Monkhouse