Kimiko Hahn

Acclaimed Poet & Teacher
Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

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  • An Evening with Kimiko Hahn


“In Hahn’s hands, the smallest of relics become powerful portals through time, space, and memory. With expert lyric sensibility and all the anguish of daughterhood, [Hahn] reminds us of the necessity of poetry as a spell for intimacy. It’s a spell that offers hope of the most urgent kind: the hope of closing the gap between ‘my other’s body’ and ‘my mother’s body,’ between ourselves and all that we can’t reach.” –Franny Choi

“Hahn works from the minute, ephemeral stuff left from a life (a loose thread, a single hair, an open safety pin) back to the overarching themes of memory, death, love, and sorrow.” –Lynn Emanuel

“Hahn’s poem encourages us to look to our most unassuming neighbors—and in them, find ourselves.” –Chicago Review of Books

Kimiko Hahn is the author of eleven books of poems, including: The Ghost Forest: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2024); Foreign Bodies (W. W. Norton, 2020); Brain Fever (WWN, 2014), and Toxic Flora (WWN, 2010), all collections prompted by science; The Narrow Road to the Interior (WWN, 2006), a collection that takes its title from Basho’s famous poetic journal; The Unbearable Heart (Kaya, 1996), which received an American Book Award; Earshot (Hanging Loose Press, 1992), which was awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and an Association of Asian American Studies Literature Award.

About the process of writing her most recent book, Foreign Bodies, Hahn reflects in an interview with The Rumpus: “I think things are exotic because they are the Other. Japanese things are not exotic to me but there are other things that are exotic. The insect world, for example. I don’t know anything about it, I’m not an entomologist so the language is exotic, and the information has an otherworldly feel. I think there will always be the Other. It’s not always positive but it can be. In early childhood development, the mother is the other to the infant, the love object. There will always be the other and I think that’s where the exotic resides. Regarding preservation, I’m very interested in it socially. In order to preserve some things we need to move backwards and clean things up. I am literally interested in preservation.”

As part of Hahn’s service to the CUNY community, she initiated a Chapbook Festival that became an annual event co-sponsored by major literary organizations. Since then, she has added chapbooks to her list of publications: (Write it!): a collection of odes, Brittle Process, Brood, Ragged Evidence, A Field Guide to the Intractable, Boxes with Respect, The Cryptic Chamber, and Resplendent Slug. In 2017, she and Tamiko Beyer collaborated on the chapbook Dovetail.

She takes pleasure in the challenges of collaboration: writing text for film including: Coal Fields, the 1985 experimental documentary by Bill Brand; Ain’t Nuthin’ but a She Thing a 1995 HBO special; and Everywhere at Once, a 2008 film based on Peter Lindbergh’s still photos and narrated by Jeanne Moreau).

Hahn’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, PEN/Voelcker Award, Shelley Memorial Prize, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the N.Y. Foundation for the Arts. She has taught in graduate programs at the University of Houston and New York University. Hahn has also taught for literary organizations such as the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, and Kundiman. From 2016-2019, Hahn was President of the Board of Governors, Poetry Society of America. In 2023, she was named a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets and received The Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award.

She lives in New York where she is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, The City University of New York.



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