Kimiko Hahn is primarily known for her poetry. In 1995, she wrote the screenplay Ain’t Nuthin’ but a She-Thing featuring ten prominent women for the Music Television Video network. In 2006, she wrote the screenplay for the film Everywhere at Once (2007), directed by Holly Fisher.
Literary critics consider Kimiko Hahn a major contemporary American poet whose work draws strongly on her personal experience as an Asian American daughter, woman, and mother. Her poetry always reveals a strong personal touch as she experiments with a variety of poetic forms and a wide range of subject matter. Her poetry has been influenced by medieval Japanese zuihitsu and tanka and inspired by German fairy tales as well as botany and astronomy. Her poems can be found in many important contemporary anthologies. Hahn’s earliest work quickly established her reputation, even though some critics took exception to her youthful infatuation with Marxism. Hahn’s third collection, Earshot, won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize from Saginaw Valley State University in 1995 and the Poetry Book Award of the Association for Asian American Studies in 1993.
Hahn’s fourth collection, The Unbearable Heart, which focused on her mother’s sudden death, won the American Book Award of the Before Columbus Foundation in 1996. Hahn received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award in 1997 and the Shelley Memorial Award in 2007. The Narrow Road to the Interior won Hahn substantial critical acclaim, including the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry in 2008. She received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Chang, Juliana. “I Cannot Find Her.” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 4, no. 4 (April, 2004): 239-260. This theoretically grounded study of key poems from Hahn’s The Unbearable Heart focuses on how the death of the persona’s mother can be seen in a racial and feminist light; offers an interesting reading of the key poem “The Hemisphere: Kuchuk Hanem” that places it in a contemporary political context.
Grotjohn, Robert. “Kimiko Hahn’s ’Interlingual Poetics’ in Mosquito and Ant.” In Transnational Asian American Literature, edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim et al. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006. Grotjohn argues that Hahn’s poems break language apart to challenge and subvert male domination and arrive at a new, free language determined by the woman poet.
Hacht, Anne Marie, ed. Poetry for Students. Vol. 23. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2006. Analyzes Hahn’s “Pine,” providing context and biographical information on the poet.
Keller, Jim. “Teaching Kimiko Hahn’s The Unbearable Heart.” In Poetry and Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary, edited by Joan Retallack and Juliana Spahr. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. A guide to teaching—and understanding—the poems in Hahn’s moving collection that deal with her mother’s sudden death in a car accident.
Yamamoto, Traise. “Embodied Language: The Poetics of Mitsuye Yamada, Janice Mirikitani, and Kimiko Hahn.” In Masking Selves, Making Subjects: Japanese American Women, Identity, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Close readings of several key poems from Hahn’s early collections that focus on her use of the image of the female body. Discussion of “The Hemisphere: Kuchuk Hanem” from The Unbearable Heart powerfully analyzes the form and content of this poem, seen as indicative of Hahn’s early poetic technique.
Zhou, Xiaojing. “Kimiko Hahn: The Passion of Leaving Home.” In The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity in Asian American Poetry. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006. Academic study focusing on how Hahn establishes ethical relationships between the persona and other characters in her poetry. Scholarly but overall generally understandable critical discussion of the poet’s creativity.