About Fierce Aria


Fierce Aria by Maxima Kahn

Fierce Aria is about the difficulty and beauty of being a human being in these times and the role art-making plays in that.

I find it to be a fierce task to be a human being, particularly as an artist and deeply-feeling person with an active spiritual life. To grapple with the horrors that humanity inflicts on one another and the planet, juxtaposed against the awe-inspiring beauty and wonder of nature and art, is extremely challenging.

There is this lyric beauty in nature, in our souls, in our hearts, in art, in the Mystery, that sustains me, inspires me and that I seek to bring forth in my work. And there are profoundly troubling questions that I have to keep asking. To wrestle with philosophical questions about why things are the way they are and how we can live well amidst the paradoxes is a life-long artistic quest for me.

When someone at a reading once asked me why we should write poetry, I responded, “To tell the truth, but in a beautiful way, so that we can bear it.” Beauty and truth must duke it out together in order for a depth and richness to come forth.

These two, the fierceness and the beauty wrestle with one another in this book. I wanted to hold them up to the light to give people courage, inspiration, hope, a sense of not being alone. I wanted to make a thing of beauty and truth, to make the invisible visible, to give voice to the unsayable, and to speak eloquently for those who struggle to find the words for their feelings and experiences. I want to wake people up to greater aliveness. I believe poems can do this in an extraordinary way, casting a magical spell with words that awakens feelings, memories, imagination, sensations and calls us to greater being.

I have always found the invisible and imaginal worlds—the worlds of emotions, spirits and imagination—to be vividly alive for me, even more than the apparent physical world. So, I have had a driving need to capture that ineffable wonder and strangeness on the page in some way, while also honoring the physical world. These things aren’t, in fact, separate. I have been called a poet of praise more than once, and I consider that a great honor. I have also been called a radical.

These paradoxes are what Fierce Aria is all about.

—Maxima Kahn

Reviews from my readers

“I have learned to walk in the valley of my fears and losses,” writes Maxima Kahn, and the evidence of what she has learned is all over these amazing poems. Fierce Aria is a book with a post-Wallace Stevens mission: to coax the still perfection of ideas out of the abstract realm, so they can take shape in the messy wilderness of reality. Distinctive, honed, vulnerable, musical, courageous, honest, Maxima Kahn’s poems are fully ripened, fully considered—each one ready to drop richly into the hand like a subtly contoured fruit. Taste them.

—Annie Finch, author of Spells: New and Selected Poems

In her first full-length collection, Fierce Aria, Maxima Kahn traverses rarified air, an anarchist wrapped in the lyrical spirituality of Rumi. Each of these poems is both a prayer and a call to arms, seamlessly crossing the barriers of concrete reality and dizzying imagination. Maxima clearly obsesses over every word and phrase; artistry that anchors us into each imagistic line, while allowing the reader to vicariously live her life of intense introspect and wondrous landscapes.

—Indigo Moor, Sacramento Poet Laureate, author of In the Room of Thirsts & Hungers


Feast your ears
on the rhythmic drumming
of the woodpecker, one little bird
snickering like a mischievous boy.

This is the balm of morning,
everything in cahoots:
dark purple
petunias shuddering
to the same pulse
as the clack of insects,
a shrill cheep
from the canyon below
piercing at
precise intervals,

and when the leaf lets go
the branch, when the neighbor
sings out to his dog, the way
someone’s radio drones
a low undertone, or a cloud drifts
a high soprano
over the whole arrangement,
even the ponderously slow
bass carillon of new growing
trees thrums the continuo
of this harmony; nothing mars
the perfection
of the score, nothing
darkens the day.

First published in Westview: Vol. 26 : Iss. 2 (




photo by Strong Fish on Unsplash