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Kamiko Hahn

Kamiko Hahn

Kimiko Hahn, author of nine books, finds that disparate sources have triggered her material—whether Flaubert’s sex-tour in The Unbearable Heart, an exhumation in The Artist's Daughter or classical Japanese forms in The Narrow Road to the Interior. Rarified fields of science prompted her latest collections: Toxic Flora and the forthcoming Brain Fever both from W.W. Norton. She is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, CUNY.
In "Dace," Kurt's craft is wonder-full and understated—the easy stride of his syllabics, the perfect and slant rhymes (bottom/scum, tail; impale, jaws/because, scales/curls); the constellation of sounds within and across lines (fin/stick/lip/lip, rocks/scour/flanks/scales, seize/frenzy). Of course, this is a great part of the pleasure. Also across the whole collection, I listen to his personal philosophy in the making. In "Dace," in the melancholy tone in reminiscing boyhood fun (and a kind of unconscious cruelty), there is the sense of anonymous things arising from "mud," literally, figuratively, and, as the ancient philosophers thought, by spontaneous generation. I love this messiness. I love that there is such Beauty in this mud. This anonymity. This oblivion.


Junk fish, made of garbage and black silt,
mud given breath, if it were ever so,
I lay on my stomach beside the stream
and watched them glide in the current, then go

bounding like grasshoppers when the light changed,
casting lacy shadows on the bottom.
Fish common as dirt, big-lipped and hungry,
mouths made, like vacuum cleaners, to suck scum

from rocks and scour the sand clean. Sometimes
they'd roll their flanks up and their tiny scales
would catch the sun, throwing off a yellow
light, a dirty, magnified gold through curls

of water spreading easily across
the surface of a brook. We'd call them
Golden Shiners then and thought this dim flash
a signal, though for god knows what. They'd swim

in nervous, glittering schools, their red fins
folding and unfolding, translucent tail
sweeping one way, then the other, holding
them afloat. We'd use them for bait, impale

them underneath the dorsal fin, or stick
the hook from lip to lip locking their jaws
shut, free enough to wiggle there like sin
in the blue depths of a lake. And because

we were children, we thought nothing of death.
Certainly not these, plentiful and cheap.
We caught them by the hundreds in our traps
and always there were more, as if the deep

water bred them like grass or drops of rain,
not really singular, not selves like us,
but things to cast into the dark, countless
and expendable. And without remorse

the big fish, northern pike or bass, would seize
them in a frenzy of greed, gluttony
that thrilled us, surged up our arms into hearts
that beat like pistons, mad with sympathy.

And all the time, beneath us in the weeds,
the mud gave up another host of dace,
black splinters of oblivion, without
regard, without an essence or a face.


Charles Simic

Charles Simic


Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn
On Kurt Brown...


Thomas Lux

Thomas Lux
At the Blue Gates