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A striking, shapeshifting volume from "one of the most fascinating female poets of our time (BOMB)."
Inspired by her encounter with Dr. Chevalier Jackson’s collection of ingested curiosities at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, Kimiko Hahn’s tenth collection investigates the grip that seemingly insignificant objects exert on our lives. Itself a cabinet of curiosities, the collection provokes the same surprise, wonder, and pangs of recognition Hahn felt upon opening drawer after drawer of these swallowed, and retrieved, objects—a radiator key, a child’s perfect attendance pin, a mother-of-pearl button. The speaker of these moving poems sees reflections of these items in the heartbreaking detritus of her family home, and in her long-dead mother’s Japanese jewelry.
As Hahn remakes the lyric sequence in chains reminiscent of the Japanese tanka, the foreign bodies of the title expand to include the immigrant woman’s trafficked body, fossilized remains, a grandmother’s Japanese body. She explores the relationship between our innermost selves and the relics of our vanished past, making room for meditation on grief and the ephemeral nature of the material world, for the account of a nineteenth-century female fossil hunter, and for a celebration of the nautilus. Foreign Bodies investigates the power of possession, replete with Hahn’s electric originality and thrilling mastery of ever-changing forms.
About the Author
Kimiko Hahn is the author of ten collections of poems. Her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Voelcker Award, and a Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize. A distinguished professor at Queens College, CUNY, she lives in Queens.
Kimiko Hahn’s structurally and formally complex new book, Foreign Bodies, is a long, rich meditation on detail. It is a masterpiece of scale. Just as the cellular biologist works backward from a single cell under an electron microscope to the full organism, so 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. The book is a series of elegies of the most original and surprising sort. A quite miraculous performance.
— Lynn Emanuel, author of The Nerve of It
Kimiko Hahn writes with a particular brightness of mind like no one else—or maybe with just enough kinship to Marianne Moore and their shared weirdness to mention it here, their glorious fascination with the particular-peculiars of nature and human behavior…Where another poet, doing such inexhaustible research, would eventually clean up her act, Kimiko Hahn in Foreign Bodies makes as much art out of documentary evidence and ‘sparkly’ research as she does elegance, memory, or lyrical compression.
— David Baker, author of Swift
‘Notice that the simplest often yields the most,’ writes Kimiko Hahn in her electric tenth collection. 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, Foreign Bodies 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, author of Soft Science