Ai’s horrific, surreal vision continues to mature with each book. In the 16 long poems that comprise her fourth collection, the lyricism of such earlier volumes as Sin is replaced by relentless eyewitness accounts: haunting, cinematic narratives of the rich and famous that even the tabloids couldn’t dream up. In this sexually empowered world, Mary Jo Kopechne can rise from the dead to state boldly, “Jack or Bobby would have died with me.” The vision and the violence carry over into the lives of unnamed, down-and-out characters as well; in “Eve’s Story,” a battered woman realizes,
The snake and God were only propsMale and female characters are equally pitiful, yet the poet’s strength rests in her ability to avoid wallowing in sympathy for them. —Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, Soho Weekly News, New York
she discarded when she left Adam
writhing on the ground.