Rooted in traditional Japanese aesthetics and meditations on contemporary neuroscience, a stunning new volume from an essential American poet.
Acclaimed as "one of the most fascinating female poets of our time" (BOMB
), Kimiko Hahn is a shape-shifter, a poet who seeks novel forms for her utterly original subject matter and "stands as a welcome voice of experimentation and passion" (Bloomsbury Review
). In Brain Fever
, Hahn integrates the recent findings of science, ancient Japanese aesthetics, and observations from her life as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, and artist.
Rooted in meditations on contemporary neuroscience, Brain Fever takes as its subject the mysteries of the human mind—the nature of dreams and memories, the possibly illusory nature of linear time, the complexity of conveying love to a child. In one poem, "A Bowl of Spaghetti," she cites a comparison that researchers draw between unraveling "the millions of miles of wires in the [human] brain" and "untangling a bowl of spaghetti," and thus she untangles a memory of her own: "I have an old photo: Rei in her high chair intently / picking out each strand to mash in her mouth. // Was she two? Was that sailor dress from mother? / Did I cook that sauce from scratch? If so, there was a carrot in the pot."
Equally inspired by Sei Shonagon's tenth-century Pillow Book and the latest findings of cognitive research, Brain Fever is a thrilling blend of the timely and the timeless.
Kimiko Hahn has published more than ten books and is the 2023 recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement. She teaches in the MFA program for creative writing and literary translation at Queens College, City University of New York.
In Brain Fever, Kimiko Hahn moves through the rooms of the mind with an oneiric weightlessness. She also touches concrete ground in the realm of neuroscience, and in the world outside the mind, where love, betrayal, regret, and debilitating loss reside. This is a beautiful and troubling book, a marriage of what matters most: the mysteries buried at our very core and the world that cradles and cuts into us at every turn.
— Tracy K. Smith
Hahn’s poems glow with concentrated energy.
— Boston Review
The poems’ brevity, precise imagery, and echoing of
that imagery will make readers return to the collections,
finding new connections each time.
— Moon City Review
A juxtaposition of current scientific research on brain
function and cognition with . . . a lyrical daydream of
loss and resilience. . . . Outstanding.