cover image The Unbearable Heart

The Unbearable Heart

Kimiko Hahn. Kaya Press, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-885030-00-9

Hahn (Earshot, winner of 1995 Theodore Roethke Award) finds opportunity in her mother's sudden, accidental death to explain sex, and later cremation, to her young daughters. A marked achievement in Hahn's writing is that these exchanges possess an unexpected lyricism and gentility. ""I feel a passion for mother I thought I reserved for lovers,"" she confesses. Paramount in this volume are two lengthy works. ""The Hemisphere: Kuchuk Hanem,"" a prose piece, begins with the image of the poet as a four-year-old seeing her mother naked in the tub, and moves on to explore issues of budding femininity, adult erotica and prostitution; quotes from studies of Flaubert are ingeniously interspersed with Hahn's memories. ""Wisteria"" is a three-part sequence built around random words, quotations from Roland Barthes, the messages on sympathy cards and meditations on the Tale of Genji. Here, as in several shorter poems that capture unanalyzed moments, the merging of Eastern and Western cultures provides a distinctive, almost child-like undertone. (Jan.)