Ai (poet)

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Ai 2010.jpg
Born Florence Anthony
October 21, 1947
Albany, Texas, United States
Died March 20, 2010 (aged 62)
Stillwater, Oklahoma, United States
Occupation Poet
Nationality American
Genre Contemporary American Literature
Literary movement none
Notable works Vice (1999)
Notable awards National Book Award

Ai Ogawa (October 21, 1947 – March 20, 2010),[1][2][3][4] born as Florence Anthony, was an American poet and educator. She won the 1999 National Book Award for Poetry for Vice: New and Selected Poems.[5] Ai is known for her mastery of the dramatic monologue as a poetic form, as well as for taking on dark, controversial topics in her work. [1]

Early life[edit]

Ai, who described herself as half 1/2 Japanese, 1/8 Choctaw-Chickasaw,1/4 Black,1/16 Irish, and Southern Cheyenne, and Comanche, was born in Albany, Texas[1][2][3][4][6][7] in 1947, and she grew up in Tucson, Arizona. She was also raised in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, with her mother and second stepfather, Sutton Hayes. In 1959, a couple of years after her mother's divorce from Hayes, they moved back to Tucson, Arizona where she completed high school and attended college at the University of Arizona, where she majored in English and Oriental Studies with a concentration in Japanese and a minor in Creative Writing, which she would fully commit to toward the end of her degree.[8] Before starting college, one night during dinner with her mother and third stepfather, Ai learned her biological father was Japanese. Known as Florence Hayes throughout her childhood and undergrad years, it was not until graduate school, when Ai was going to switch her last name back to Anthony that her mother finally told her more details about her past, learning that she had an affair with a Japanese man, Michael Ogawa, after meeting him at a streetcar stop. Learning of the affair had led Ai's first stepfather, whose last name was "Anthony," to beat her mother until family intervened and she was taken to Texas, where her stepfather eventually followed after Ai's birth. Because her mother was still legally married to Anthony at the time, his last name was put on Ai's birth certificate.[9]

The poverty Ai experienced during her childhood affected her and her writing.[10] Ai credits her first writing experience to an assignment in her Catholic school English class to write a letter from the perspective of martyr. Two years after that experience, she began actively writing at the age of 14.[8] History had been one of her many interests since high school.[9]


From 1969 to 1971, Ai attended the University of California at Irvine's M.F.A program where she worked under the likes of Charles Wright and Donald Justice.[8][9] She is the author of "No Surrender," (2010), which was posthumously published after her death, Dread (W. W. Norton & Co., 2003); Vice (1999), which won the National Book Award;[5] Greed (1993); Fate (1991); Sin (1986), which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; Killing Floor (1979), which was the 1978 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; and Cruelty (1973).

She also received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bunting Fellowship Program at Radcliffe College and from various universities. She was a visiting instructor at Binghamton University, State University of New York for the 1973-74 academic year. After winning the National Book Award for "Vice" she became a tenured professor and the vice president of the Native American Faculty and Staff Association at Oklahoma State University and lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma until her death.[11][12]

Literary views[edit]

Ai had considered herself as "simply a writer" rather than a spokesperson for any particular group.[13]

Name change[edit]

In 1973, she legally changed her last name to Ogawa and her middle name to "Ai" (愛), translates to "love" in Japanese, which she had been using as a pen name since 1969.[9]


Ai was checked into the hospital on March 17, 2010 for pneumonia. Three days later, Ai died on March 20, 2010 at age 62, in Stillwater, Oklahoma[14] from what turned out to be complications of an advanced, and previously undiagnosed, breast cancer.[15][16]

Selected works[edit]

Poetry collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ai." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Gale Biography In Context. Web. Retrieved 2011-03-26.
  2. ^ a b "Ai." Contemporary Women Poets. Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. Retrieved 2011-03-26.
  3. ^ a b "Ai." Contemporary Poets. Gale, 2001. Gale Biography In Context. Web. Retrieved 2011-03-26.
  4. ^ a b Obituary New York Times, March 28, 2010; page A26.
  5. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1999". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-08.
    (With acceptance speech by Ai and essay by Dilruba Ahmed from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  6. ^ Fox, Margalit (2010-03-27). "Ai, an Unflinching Poetic Channel of Hard Lives, Dies at 62". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  7. ^ "University of Arizona Poetry Center". Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  8. ^ a b c "AWP: Writer's Chronicle Features Archive". Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  9. ^ "Ai Interviewd by Lawrence Kearney and Micheal Cuddihy". Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  10. ^ "Ai Ogawa's Obituary on Oklahoman". Oklahoman. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  11. ^ NewsPress, Sean Hubbard -. "Indian Nations insights". Stillwater News Press. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  12. ^ "Ai," American Poetry Observed, edited by Joe David Bellamy. University of Illinois Press: Urbana, 1984, pp. 1-8; quoted statement is on page 5.
  13. ^ Fox, Margalit (2010-03-27). "Ai, an Unflinching Poetic Channel of Hard Lives, Dies at 62". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  14. ^ "Contributor Spotlight: Carolyne Wright Remembers Poet Ai". HAYDEN'S FERRY REVIEW. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  15. ^ Fox, Margalit (2010-03-27). "Ai, an Unflinching Poetic Channel of Hard Lives, Dies at 62". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 

External links[edit]