Ai (1947-2010), the author of eight books of poetry, described herself as being one-half Japanese, one-eighth Choctaw, one-quarter Black, and one-sixteenth Irish, a mixed heritage that heavily influenced her work. Her awards and honors included a National Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Lamont Poetry Award from the American Academy of Poets. She was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and, in 2009, a United States Artist Ford Fellowship. She was a professor at Oklahoma State University. (Author photo by Charlie M. P. Sirait)
Before her untimely death in 2010, Ai, known for her searing dramatic monologues, was hailed as "one of the most singular voices of her generation" (New York Times Book Review). Now for the first time, all eight books by this essential and uniquely American poet have been gathered in one volume. Included here are her four early volumes—Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, and Fate—which have been long out of print, in addition to four more recent works: Greed, Vice, Dread, and No Surrender. Haunting, flinty, and full of characteristic dark humor, these poems display the "raw power, jagged edges and unflinching examination of violence and despair" (New York Times) for which Ai has been praised.
"Ai's characters uncover their senses of self as they speak, baring themselves physically, psychologically, and spiritually, and the music of telling seems to bring them to the cusp of being transformed. Each poem is a confession.... There's no voice like hers in American poetry."
—Yusef Komunyakaa, from the Introduction
Read Yusef Komunyakaa's introduction, The Method of AiThe Collected Poems of Ai
W. W. Norton