Wednesday, April 15, 2020

foreign bodies

I've always admired the way, especially in her book Toxic Flora, Kimiko Hahn is able to respond to science with poetry. Her newest book, Foreign Bodies, is a precise, intimate study of objects and wordplay. In the poem "Foreign Body," she expresses, "Now I'm sixty. Sweet as dried papaya. / My hair, a bit tarnished, / my inmost, null. / Memory is falling away / as if an image shattered to shards then / re-collected for a kaleidoscope: / I click the pieces into sharp arrangement--" This "sharp arrangement" is how I view this book, and I found myself enjoying all of the echoes and elegance. The images of ash and dust ("Before I swept every speck of you...") are motifs throughout and are given all sorts of associations--from cigarette ashes to the ashes of the departed. In "The Ashes," witness the vividness and syntax: "After the war, after she met Father, / she smoked menthols but didn't cha-cha anymore. / She'd light up and blow smoke / out the apoplectic window. / He found the ashes on the sill." I admire Hahn's work so much that I wasn't sure at first about the inclusion of her essay "Nitro: More on Japanese Poetics"--I wanted the poems to be able to breathe on their own on their pages--but ultimately I thought there were many interesting ideas within. "After all, aren't word associations the raw material of the psyche, where one rubs against one's dreams?" And later, "Perhaps I shouldn't feel the need to essay my mixed sensibility. Please dear reader, please count this not as a lecture, but as an abiding homage to a culture that is both foreign and embodied." I appreciated this final note--and the restless yearning of a powerful mind that created this book.

-Jeffery Berg

No comments:

Post a Comment