Photo credit - Nancy Fewkes
Ai (October 21, 1947 ' March 20, 2010), was born Florence Anthony. She changed her name to Ai Ogawa.
"Ai was always a fierce
and uncompromising voice. The author of seven memorable books of poetry,
she earned the American Book Award for Sin in 1987 and a National Book
Award for Vice in 1999. As the Mitte Chair in Creative Writing at
Southwest Texas State University from 2002 -2003, she earned a United
States Artist Ford Fellowship in 2009.
She wrote the following collections of poetry: Cruelty (1973), Killing Floor (1979), Sin (1986), Fate (1991), Greed (1993), Vice- New and Selected Poems (1999), and Dread (2003). The poetess also wrote one novel, Black Blood (1997), as well as numerous articles and poems to several publications." --(Robert Fleming)
Click to Order via Amazon
Hardcover: 137 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 27, 2010)
Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
A searing new collection from a master of the poetic monologue. A disillusioned Irish nun moves to America, meets Elvis, and rediscovers her faith. An amputee goes on a strange journey during a hurricane. Each of the speakers in Ai's daring new collection has a uniquely American story to tell, and each is told with the poet's characteristic dark humor and ambition.'
Now we're middle aged,
Bearing the curse, not the luck of the Irish,
On our shoulders like crosses.
We know that loss is just the outcome of living,
The dross that's left after you turn gold back into iron
And end up in Rio with a mulatta, who's got a habit,
But he doesn't care. He's flying blind
And I am right behind him.
New and Selected Poems
Click to order via Amazon
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 2000)
Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Poetry.
Collected here are poems from Ai's previous five books'Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, Fate, and Greed'along with seventeen new poems. Employing her trademark ferocity, these new dramatic monologues continue to mine this award-winning poet's "often brilliant" (Chicago Tribune) vision.
An excerpt from Vice.
Memory is a highway,
where a car is speeding into the sunset.
The man inside that car has a gun.
He says he'll shoot himself
and be done with it, be dead,
but in the end, he doesn't do it.
If he had, the path to the truth
would have led straight from the gate
outside his ex-wife's house,
not end run around it,
leaving a trail of blood
the prosecution says is proof
that he used his power, his juice
to seduce death
by handing her two sacrifices,
but she promised what she would never deliver.
She left him a pair of loaded dice
and severed their connection
with one well-practiced slice.
Now in his cell,
he reads fan letters.
He doesn't dwell on the past.
If he did, he'd tell you to always go for broke,
because a man who can't do the distance is a joke,
is a failure.
"You can quote me on that," he says aloud,
then shocked by the sound of his own voice,
chokes back a cry.
When he looks himself in the eye,
he jsut sees a regular guy.
He sees a parade going by.
On the largest float,
the homecoming queen waves to the crowd.
She's a statuesque blond.
He's a football hero.
He's also a black man,
but that is no obstacle.
It's a license to do the impossible.
He waves back.
Maybe that isn't really what happened,
but it's close and he makes the most of it,
when he can see through the smoke
of his desire and rage.
In a flash
he feels the diamonds of hope,
cutting the smooth glass of his mind
into halfs and quarters,
as he runs backward in time,
a football tucked under his arm,
as he crosses the goal line,
only to find the stands are empty
and he is alone in the field.
Concealed in the ball is a bomb.
All he has to do to explode it is throw.
He listens to the silence inhaling,
then he lets go.
That's when the crowd appears
and over the loudspeaker
he hears his coach, saying, "Buddy, come on home,"
but home is the scene of the crime,
shown on TV so many times
that the murderer and victims cease to exist,
except in peripheral vision
and in the void between goalposts,
thirty-two bits and pieces of his life.
are all that survive of the knife.
(c) 1999 by Ai. All rights reserved.
Click to order via Amazon
Pub. Date: October 1993
Format: Hardcover, 96pp
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Greed for money, power, sex, and love is the theme at the heart of this new
volume of dramatic monologues by Ai, her fifth book to date. Beginning with
"Riot Act," a monologue about the Los Angeles uprising in April 1992, this
collection is an exploration of racial and sexual politics through the voices of
characters as diverse as Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald, J. Edgar Hoover, a
battered wife who shoots her husband, an adopted child involved in an incestuous
relationship, a priest-pedophile, and women in relationships that are going
nowhere. Ai's particular gift is her ability to get inside the heads of the
characters she writes about; the cumulative effect is no less shocking than the
personal and public horrors we read about in the daily newspapers.