Mosquito and Ant Poems

Overview

This breakthrough volume by award-winning poet Kimiko Hahn is her most rigorously "female" work to date as she reclaims the female body and reinvents an ancient Chinese correspondence.Mosquito and Ant refers to the style in which nu shu—a nearly extinct script used by Chinese women to correspond with one another—is written. Here in this exciting and totally original book of poems the narrator corresponds with L. about her hidden passions, her relationship with her husband and adolescent daughters, lost loves, and...

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Mosquito and Ant: Poems

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Overview

This breakthrough volume by award-winning poet Kimiko Hahn is her most rigorously "female" work to date as she reclaims the female body and reinvents an ancient Chinese correspondence.Mosquito and Ant refers to the style in which nu shu—a nearly extinct script used by Chinese women to correspond with one another—is written. Here in this exciting and totally original book of poems the narrator corresponds with L. about her hidden passions, her relationship with her husband and adolescent daughters, lost loves, and erotic fantasies. Kimiko Hahn's collection takes shape as a series of wide-ranging correspondences that are in turn precocious and wise, angry and wistful. Borrowing from both Japanese and Chinese traditions, Hahn offers us an authentic and complex narrator struggling with the sorrows and pleasures of being a woman against the backdrop of her Japanese-American roots.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bold, brave and sharp, Hahns fourth and fifth books (her third, The Unbearable Heart, won an American Book Award) are large in the range of their concerns and the intensity of their passions. If Volatile sounds pointed in its political rage, it rages in a distinct womans voice. If Mosquito and Ant speaks from rolesmother, daughter, wife, lover, friend, student, teacher, writerit never fails to experience these roles politically. In poems like Volatiles If You Speak, Hahn delves into the terrible history of Asian women; she engages their literary legacy in Guard the Jade Pass and others in Mosquito and Anta book named, she explains in a note, for a now nearly extinct secret script used by Chinese women [a millennium ago] to correspond with each other. Clippings makes witty, topical metaphor: Save clipping:/ Secret Life of Jupiters Moons./ Their molten cores may allow/ enough change/ for life. We can see the cracks/ on the bald surface/ through the delighted telescope. The poems in Volatile, often rough and slack, can challenge readers to confront their political aesthetics via the poetical: And if you think this is not a poem/ because Ive ranted without benefit of a metaphor/ think again.... (The Glass Bracelets). Both volumes contain long poems in prose paragraphs. Volatiles Possession (reprinted in The Best American Poetry, 1996) and Blindsided are zuihitsu, a form Hahn has reinvented primarily after The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: lyrical prose paragraphs, casually notational, incorporate lists, anecdotes, commentary. As they circle back on themes and images, they weave meaning and grow immensely moving. In Mosquito and Ant, Downpour and Sewing Without Mother are also zuihitsu, the latter a magisterial elegy and compelling vision of the poets working life, present and future. Both books call on a visceral sexuality to make their concerns concrete, but M&A is the tighter, more fully realized work, redefining a space where women write to each other in charged, clandestine code. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Hahn•s first volume to be released by a major publisher continues many of the themes from her earlier work, especially The Unbearable Heart (1996), largely about her mother•s violent accidental death. Here, Hahn finds some distance from the event in her appropriation of ancient Asian forms of writing: the title refers to the Soong Dynasty calligraphy that served as a secret language between women; and elsewhere she adopts the Japanese •pillow book• for her own •stray notes• and •random thoughts.• Hahn•s poems to •L., •her secret correspondent, are a catalogue of •wanting,• •longing,• and •desire•: in •Wax,• she admits her middle-aged wish for the excitement of an initial encounter (not sex, which she claims, after all, her generation •invented•); in •Kafka•s Erection,• she asserts her need for this correspondence now that her daughters are growing up and away; and in •Radiator,• she seeks advice about •M.,• a man not her husband, whose •acid of coffee and tobacco• she likes to taste. When she•s not addressing her contemporary friend in these revealing and intimate poems, Hahn imagines herself as one of the •Immortal Sisters••a group of Taoist poets from ancient China who wrote •coy lines• in •The flat language / of pine and orchid.• Cross-cutting between the past and present, the poet admires women who write for other women, detailing their masturbation (•Annotation in Her Last Court Diary•), their love of fruit (•A Boat down the River of Yellow Silt•), and lists of mundane facts (•Clippings•) or litanies of abuse (•The New Calligraphy Tutor is a Woman•). Hahn•s Asiatic pretenses, though occasionally intoxicating, are marred by her trendy references to colonialist and Frenchfeminist theory: •Marxism is not dead,• she asserts in one poem, while •the Other• is mentioned often throughout this volume of highly personalized political poetry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393320626
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Kimiko Hahn is the author of eight previous books of poetry, including, most recently, Toxic Flora. She has won an American Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Theodore Roethke Award, and a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Award. She lives in New York and teaches at Queens College, City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

The Razor 13
Wax 17
Morning Light 19
Kafka's Erection 22
Reflections Off White 24
Note on Thematic Redundancy in Women's Verse, No. One 27
Mosquito and Ant 28
Jam 31
The Tumbler 33
Pine 35
Note on Thematic Redundancy in Women's Verse, No. Two 37
Translating Ancient Lines into the Vernacular 41
Zinc 42
The Downpour 44
The Akashi Woman Speaks above a Whisper 50
Garnet 51
Chekov's Diner 53
"Guard the Jade Pass" 55
Orchid Root 57
A Boat down the River of Yellow Silt 60
Radiator 61
Clippings 63
Annotation in Her Last Court Diary 65
Lady Rokujo Hails a Taxi 66
Croissant 67
A Late Entry in the First Wife's Pillow Book 69
The Lunar Calendar She Pins to the Door 70
The Intelligentsia of the Chin Dynasty Desire Desire 71
Tissue 72
Chuang Tzu's Mistress Sleeps in a Draft 73
Untitled 74
The New Calligraphy Tutor Is a Woman 76
Responding to Light 77
Komachi to Shosho on the Ninety-ninth Night 81
Becoming the Mother 85
Sewing without Mother 89
Notes 101
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