Tuesday, March 23, 2010
440: Ai, 1947-2010
I just learned the poet Ai passed away on Saturday, which is sad news for our community. She was only sixty-two.
I first encountered her work in her Selected Poems when I was an undergraduate. She was a visiting writer at the Loft (back in spring of 2001 or 2002), a mentor for Kathleen (my "boss" at my internship in the creative writing offices, so to speak). I saw her when Louise Erdrich did an interview with her--Ai's personality was buoyant and quirky. When her cell phone went off, she answered it, telling the person she'd have to call them back because she was at a public interview; the crowd, I think, found her charming.
It wasn't until a few years ago that I encountered The Killing Floor, a gorgeous, gorgeous book of persona poems from the perspective of murderers. It is an early book for her, not nearly as sprawling as some of her more recent poems, and I admired her use of language and voice. It's on a draft of my MFA booklist (a list compiled by MFAs at the end of their time here that is supposed to reveal influences in the manuscript and include a range of genres and time periods).
I'm surprised to find so little in the newspapers about her death; surely her contributions to literature were significant enough to warrant blurbs in larger presses. She was a writer of influence for me, truly.