Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Poetry.
Collected here are poems from Ai's previous five books—Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, Fate
, and Greed
—along with seventeen new poems. Employing her trademark ferocity, these new dramatic monologues continue to mine this award-winning poet's "often brilliant" (Chicago Tribune
You know the age-old question: Suppose you could handpick a cast of living or dead characters and have them all to dinner. Who would you ask? In this searing collection, Ai does the difficult work of choosing for us. She invites a whole host of often less-than-presentable guests, including presidents ("I have a deep affection for my wife, / but also for sweet, big-haired girls... who never complain of tired jaws"), paparazzi ("I am there for you, / a friend, not an enemy, / stalkerazzi, or a tabloid Nazi"), and prurient priests ("Lord, I crave things"). Elsewhere, Ai gives voice to Lenny Bruce, a grief-stricken Marilyn Monroe, and the spurned lover who confesses "A man could never do / as much for Imelda / as a pair of shoes." Donning the mask of our most famous (and infamous) politicians and celebrities, as well as our most vilified antiheroes, she gives new life to the dramatic monologue. And in poems "by" rapists, murderers, looters, hit men, and stalkers, she puts words in the mouths of the thoroughly muzzled. Like Whitman, she writes from the conviction that every voice--no matter how despicable or seemingly insignificant--deserves the chance to be heard. --Martha Silano