In her fifth book, Ai ( Fate ) imagines and experiences contemporary degrees of American violence: who commits it, who endures it, and who does not. Her poems are narrated by a fairly raunchy cast of public and private people that includes an anonymous looter, Marion Barry, J. Edgar Hoover, a battered wife who finally shoots her husband, and an ice cream man, once molested by his parents, who himself molests children on the job. The violence is physical, sexual, moral; flamboyant or withheld; crafty, or senseless. And the poetry serves to bear witness, not indulge in excess--it is notable, partly, for an austerity. As in her earlier work, the poet's directness of address is an impressively leveling power, laying open complex situations with an odd, unapologetic, sometimes devastating candor: ``I shot him, I say, he beat me,'' reports the abused wife of her husband in ``Finished.'' But there is no redressing an injustice, and nobody can be righteous. The wife concludes, ``I do not tell them how the emancipation from pain / leaves nothing in its place.'' Ai looks for wrongs, and doesn't right them. That isn't easy, and it seems truthful. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1993 Release date: 11/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.