Brain Fever: Poems

Brain Fever: Poems

by Kimiko Hahn
Brain Fever: Poems

Brain Fever: Poems

by Kimiko Hahn


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393354409
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/18/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 138
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

[Kimiko's Clipping Morgue: BRAIN file] 5


Alarm 9

Wake 10

Figure 11

The What-Have-You 12

Porch Light 13

Skull 14

The Dream of a Little Occupied Japan Doll 15

Tiny Wheels 16

Safe 17

Gag 18

A Bowl of Spaghetti 19

Turns of Mind 20


The Dream of Parsnips 23

The Dream of Bubbles 24

The Dream of a Pillow 25

The Dream of a Letter Opener in the Shape of a Mermaid 26

The Dream of Knife, Fork, and Spoon 27

The Dream of Shoji 28

The Dream of a Lacquer Box 29

The Dream of a Fire Engine 30

The Terrible-Headed-Lizard-from-the-Orient 31

Ode to Home 32


"A French explorer …" 35

"[Some psychologists say] …" 36

"Bur the way [the brain] …" 37

"Yet the sensation …" 38

The Solitary Adelie 40

The Secret Lives of Planets 41


Giraffes 45

Fiero 47

Riddle 48

Mapping 49

Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches 50

The teenage brain

"Dopamine …" 53

"Mark Twain …" 54

"In a baby …" 55

"Synaptic pruning …" 56

"This huge surge …" 57

Resilience 58

Black Kite, White Plastic 60


Circling a Sphere 63

Circling a Nest 65

Encircling a Snail 67

Balls 68

The Compass 69

Circling an Eye 70

The Dream of a Raindrop 71

The Dream of Toast 72

Circles and Breasts 73

Frank? 74

Plagued 75

The Top Hit 76

Conveying love

"… the brain is constantly rewiring …" 81

"Thanks to advances in neuroimaging …" 82

"It isn't that caregiving …" 83

The Dream of Shells, Cocoons, Pods, and Even Husks 84

"Breaking old habits …" 85

"Dr. Siegel …" 86

"… Wedded hearts …" 87

"… we learn …" 88

Things That Make One's Stomach Chum 89

Erasing "The Aging Brain" 90

Erasing "Host Manipulation" 92

Brain Implant #3: Patterns 94

The Problem with Dwarfs 96

Cherry Stems 98

The Morphology of Flowers 100


Erasing The Biology of Memory 102

The Dream of Leaves 108

Luminous Vapours, an essay 109

Notes 113

Acknowledgments 121

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