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Vice : new and selected poems
Ai, 1947-2010
Adult Nonfiction PS3551.I2 V53 1999

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From Publishers' Weekly:

It is impossible to reconstruct the explosive initial impact of this poet's early work, which toys with American stereotypes, myths and truths in dramatic monologues that make everyone uncomfortable: "I move off. I let her eat,/ while I get my dog's chain leash from the closet./ I whirl it around my head./ O daughter, so far, you've only had a taste of icing,/ are you ready now for some cake?" In books like Cruelty (1973) and Killing Floor (1979), a midwife describes how "a scraggy, red child comes out of her into my hands/ like warehouse ice sliding down the chute," and the poet recounts how the dead brother of her lover "slides from the black saddle/ like a bedroll of fine velvet" while she makes love on the porch. In her third book, Sin, Ai (pronounced "I") struck an equipoise between narrative force and lyrical grace, represented here in poems such as "The Good Shepherd: Atlanta, 1981" and in several Chaucerian "Tales." The highly compressed lyric poems further evolve into extended narratives over the course of this selection, and by Fate (1991), they begin to turn more regularly toward cultural icons like Jimmy Hoffa and James Dean, while supplying enough of their own wattage to make it work. The newer poems, however, deteriorate into little more than lineated tabloid reportage of the likes of O.J., Monica Lewinsky and David Koresh (labeled "fictions"). While there seems to be an ambitious blurring of art and life attempted in these and other poems on lesser (!) figures, they don't quite yield fresh perspectives, or even the can't-take-your-eyes-from-the-screen force of the originals. Readers will nevertheless appreciate this summary of an impressive career as they await its next installment. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Ais poems provide an absorbing, gritty anatomy of desire you cannot satisfy. In this selection of 18 new poems and 58 from five previous books published from 1973 to 1993, agents of emotional and mental abuse describe horrific journeys into malice and the old fear. Transfigured by desire, speakers (a heroin addict, a paparazzo, a racist) who take extreme measures try to unravel the strands of equivocal motivation. What I always wanted/ was release from my own pain/ but theres only the terrible surrender to it, confesses the police officer who committed suicide before he was to receive a medal for rescuing people after the Oklahoma City bombing. Ais willingness to explore moral values in collision shines into the hearts of those doomed to be crushed. In Ice and Rwanda, she highlights the dignity and suffering of ordinary women, victims of inexplicable violence. Redemptive empathy transforms these unadorned narratives into documents that reveal the intense disintegration of body and soul. Richly rewarding, but not for the squeamish.Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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