Presented by the Academy of American Poets.
Distinguished and award-winning poet Kimiko Hahn, author of The Brain Fever and Toxic Flora, joins astrophysicist Janna Levin, author of Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, for a conversation exploring the intersections of science and poetry.
Each fall, the Academy of American Poets presents a free series of conversations exploring how different art forms engage with poetry. These conversations pair some of today’s most intriguing poets with accomplished artists, dancers, chefs, and actors. This series is supported by an Action Grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.
Kimiko Hahn is the author of nine books of poetry, including The Artist's Daughter (2002), The Narrow Road to the Interior (2006), Toxic Flora (2010), and Brain Fever (2014). Reviewing Brain Fever in the Boston Review, Benjamin Landry wrote that Hahn’s “earlier work—wide-ranging in mode and theme—often aspired to the long-form zuihitsu, a diary-like monologue incorporating textbook definitions, email responses, exclamations, recalled speech, loose associations, declarations and reversals. These contemporary zuihitsu evinced an appealing honesty, replicating as they did the mind’s clutter.” Her later work, like that found in Toxic Flora and Brain Fever—both engagements with science articles found in the New York Times—“does away with much of the clutter. Its anchoring form is the short poem in couplets, with the occasional single-line stanza. These poems glow with concentrated energy, and their dense arrangements usefully contain Hahn’s previous meandering tendencies. Consequently, these new poems exhibit the ‘gemlike’ quality Hahn avowedly admires.”
Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Her scientific research concerns the Early Universe, Chaos, and Black Holes. Her second book – a novel, “A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines” (Knopf, 2006) – won the PEN/Bingham Fellowship for Writers that “honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work…represents distinguished literary achievement…” It was also a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award for “a distinguished book of first fiction”. She is the author of the popular science book, “How the Universe Got Its Spots: diary of a finite time in a finite space”.
She holds a BA in Physics and Astronomy from Barnard College with a concentration in Philosophy, and a PhD from MIT in Physics. She has worked at the Center for Particle Astrophysics (CfPA) at the University of California, Berkeley before moving to the UK where she worked at Cambridge University in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). Just before returning to New York, she was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing at Oxford with an award from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and Arts (NESTA). She has written for many artists and appeared on several radio and television programs.