Birthplace: Albany, Texas
Self-described as “1/2 Japanese, 1/8 Choctaw, 1/4 Black, and 1/16 Irish,” Ai grew up in Tucson, Arizona. Her poetry is often in the form of dramatic monologues (none her own), and deal unflinchingly with gritty subjects such as child abuse. Often her characters are historical figures such as Jimmy Hoffa, J. Edgar Hoover, and Marilyn Monroe. She legally changed her name to “Ai,” a Japanese word that means “love.” She is the author of several books of poetry, including Vice, which won the National Book Award for Poetry in 1999, Dread (2003), Sin (1986), Killing Floor (1979), and her first book, Cruelty (1973).