Kimiko Hahn

(1955 / New York City / United States)

Biography of Kimiko Hahn

Kimiko Hahn poet

Kimiko Hahn (born 1955 Mount Kisco, New York) is an American poet and distinguished professor in the MFA program of Queens College, CUNY. Her work frequently deals with the reinvention of poetic forms and the intersecting of conflicting identities .
Kimiko Hahn was born in Mount Kisco, New York on July 5, 1955. Her parents are both artists. Her mother, Maude Miyako Hamai, was a Japanese American from Maui, Hawaii; her father, Walter Hahn, a German American from Wisconsin. They met in Chicago, where Walter Hahn was a friend of notable African-American author, Ralph Ellison.
Hahn grew up in Pleasantville, New York, and between 1964 to 1965, the Hahns later lived in Tokyo, Japan. As a teen, she became involved in the New York City Asian American movement of the 1970s. Zhou Xiaojing has commented that her racially mixed background influenced "her profound understanding of the politics of the body" as seen in her poetry (113). In the U.S., her Asian appearance made so schoolmates "called her Chinese or Japanese, never regarding her as an American like them. Yet when she went to Japan … her schoolmates [there] called her American or 'gaijin'" (113).
Hahn received a bachelor's degree in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Iowa and an M.A. in Japanese Literature from Columbia University. She is a distinguished professor at Queens College, CUNY and has also taught at New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and University of Houston.
Her sister is Tomie Hahn, a performer and ethnologist. Hahn is married to true crime writer Harold Schechter. She has two daughters, Miyako Tess and Reiko Lily, from a previous marriage to Ted Hannan.
The major themes of Hahn's poetry explores Asian American female desire and subjectivity.The judges' citation from the Pen/Voelcker Award noted: "With wild courage Kimiko Hahn’s poems voyage fearlessly into explorations of love, sexuality, motherhood, violence, and grief and the way gender inscribes us.”
Her poetry draws from feminist works of Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, and Adrienne Rich, more canonical American poets such as T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams poetic experimentations, as well as Japanese culture and literature. The title of The Narrow Road to the Interior (W.W. Norton, 2006), for instance, is drawn from Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi. In an interview with Laurie Sheck for Bomb, Hahn discussed how she combines a variety of genres in her work, including Japanese forms, such as zuihitsu in her poetry collection, The Narrow Road to the Interior: "The Japanese view it [zuihitsu]as a distinct genre, although its elements are difficult to pin down. There’s no Western equivalent, though some people might wish to categorize it as a prose poem or an essay. You mentioned some of its characteristics: a kind of randomness that is not really random, but a feeling of randomness; a pointed subjectivity that we don’t normally associate with the essay. The zuihitsu can also resemble other Western forms: lists, journals. I’ve added emails to the mix. Fake emails....The technique of collage is really compelling to me. Letter writing, diary form—real and invented—I like to use within the zuihitsu itself."
Her poems were first published in We Stand Our Ground: Three Women, Their Vision, Their Poems, which she co-created with Gale Jackson and Susan Sherman. Since then, she has authored multiple collections of poetry, including Toxic Flora (2010),The Narrow Road to the Interior (2006), The Artist's Daughter (2002), Mosquito and Ant (1999), Volatile (1998), The Unbearable Heart (1995), and "Earshot" (1992).
The latter, Earshot, received the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and an Association of Asian American Studies Literature Award. In 1996, her poem "Possession: A Zuihitsu" (originally published in Another Chicago Magazine) was included in the anthology the Best American Poetry, and The Unbearable Heart received an American Book Award. Other honors for her work include the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award,the Shelley Memorial Prize, and the PEN/Voelcker Award. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Aside from poetry, Hahn has written for film such as the 1995 two-hour HBO special, "Ain't Nuthin' But a She-Thing" (for which she also recorded the voice-overs); and most recently, a text for "Everywhere at Once," Holly Fisher’s film based on Peter Lindbergh’s still photos and narrated by Jeanne Moreau. The latter premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and presented at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. Updates

The Dream of Shoji

How to say milk? How to say sand, snow, sow,

linen, cloud, cocoon, or albino?
How to say page or canvas or rice balls?

Trying to recall Japanese, I blank out:

it's clear I know forgetting. Mother, tell me
what to call that paper screen that slides the interior in?

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