“Other” Voices: Teaching Kimiko Hahn’s The Unbearable Heart

  • Juliana Chang


The heart of Kimiko Hahns volume of poetry The Unbearable Heart is the daughter’s grief over the death of her mother,1 The Unbearable Heart opens with several short elegies narrating the pained response of the daughter-speaker to her mother’s death, and ends with a poem in which the speaker creates a children’s story about her mother’s death as a retroactive “preparation” for this final goodbye. While the book begins with short poems in a single lyric voice, the poems become longer and increasingly fragmented as one reads on, increasingly inhabited by “other” voices. The longer poem “Cruising Bardies,” while still concerned with the figure of the mother, takes us into a more abstract realm, incorporating quotes from critic Roland Barthes and interrogating the psychoanalytic ideas of Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein. Following “Cruising Barthes” are five apparently anomalous poems that feature not an autobiographical speaker, but what appear to be fictive speakers from Japanese folktales and tales of the supernatural. Finally, the penultimate poem, “The Hemisphere: Kuchuk Hanem” typographically presents four interwoven voices: the quoted voices of postcolonial critic Edward Said and nineteenth-century writer Gustave Flaubert; the lyric voice of the autobiographical speaker; and the imagined voice of Kuchuk Hanem, an Egyptian courtesan whom Flaubert encountered and wrote about in his travels through Egypt.


Interracial Relationship Frantz Fanon Short Poem Postcolonial Critic Racial Subject 
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Copyright information

© Joan Retallack and Juliana Spahr 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juliana Chang

There are no affiliations available

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