Kimiko Hahn was born on July 5, 1955 in Mt. Kisco, New York, the child of artists, a Japanese American mother from Hawaii and a German American father from Wisconsin. Hahn received an undergraduate degree in English and East Asian studies from the University of Iowa, and a master’s degree in Japanese literature from Columbia University in 1984.
Hahn is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Foreign Bodies (W. W. Norton, 2020) and The Unbearable Heart (Kaya Production, 1995), which received an American Book Award. Her work often explores desire and death, and the intersections of conflicting identities. She frequently draws on, and even reinvents, classic forms and techniques used by women writers in Japan and China, including the zuihitsu, or pillow book, and nu shu, a nearly extinct script Chinese women used to correspond with one another.
About her own work and its place in Asian American writing, Hahn has said: “I’ve taken years to imagine an Asian American aesthetic. I think it’s a combination of many elements—a reflection of Asian form, an engagement with content that may have roots in historical identity, together with a problematic, and even psychological, relationship to language.”
Hahn is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, and an Association of Asian American Studies Literature Award.
Hahn is a distinguished professor in the English department at Queens College/CUNY and lives in New York.