Kimiko Hahn was born on July 5, 1955, in the small New York State community of Mount Kisco. Her mother, Maude Miyako Hamai, was a Japanese American artist from Maui, Hawaii, who moved to Chicago to study art and there met and married Kimiko’s father, Walter Hahn, a German American painter and friend of African American writer Ralph Ellison. From 1964 to 1965, the Hahns lived in Tokyo and afterward traveled west through Asia to Europe, a trip that fascinated nine-year-old Kimiko.
Kimiko Hahn earned a B.A. in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Iowa in 1977, while her sister Tomie Hahn became an ethnomusicologist. In 1984, Kimiko Hahn earned her master of art in Japanese literature from Columbia University. Her first collection of poetry was published together with those of fellow poets Gale Jackson and Susan Sherman as We Stand Our Ground: Three Women, Their Visions, Their Poems in 1988. One year later, Hahn’s first solo collection, Air Pocket, was published to critical praise.
After ending a brief first marriage, Hahn married Ted Hannan, and their daughters Miyako and Reiko were born in 1987 and 1990. In 1992, as Hahn’s third collection, Earshot, was published, she was appointed associate professor in the English department of Queens College of the City University of New York. In 1993, her mother died in a car accident. This event, together with her memories of her mother, is the focus of many of the poems in The Unbearable Heart and numerous later poems. As Hahn established herself as a respected American poet, her second marriage unraveled, ending in divorce, an event that is reflected in many poems of The Narrow Road to the Interior. She later remarried and became Distinguished Professor at Queens College. Hahn published Toxic Flora in 2010.