Ai (1947 - 2010)

By The Editors on 3.22.10

Sad news to share this morning. We’ve just learned that the National Book Award-winning poet Ai passed away over the weekend. Below is a statement from her colleagues in the Department of English at Oklahoma State University and the obituary notice that has been prepared by her estate:

It is with very great sadness that we inform the poetry community that the poet Ai died unexpectedly in the early hours of Saturday, March 20.

Ai was admitted to the emergency room at Stillwater Medical Center on Wednesday, March 17 with pneumonia, but tests indicated that she was in the last stages of breast cancer. She died comfortably in the company of her family.

The Creative Writing Program and the Department of English at Oklahoma State University, like the broader community of readers and writers, are devastated by the early loss of this fine poet and extraordinary colleague.

Photo by Heather Conley © 1999


The poet Ai died unexpectedly from an illness on March 20, 2010.

Ai was born October 21, 1947 in Albany, Texas and lived much of her early life in Arizona. She received a B.A. from the University of Arizona in Oriental Studies in 1969 and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine in 1971. Ai was a major voice in contemporary poetry, working extensively in the dramatic monologue. She published her first book Cruelty in 1973, and six later collections, Killing Floor (1979), Sin (1986), Fate (1991), Greed (1993), Vice (1999), and Dread (2004).

She was the recipient of many awards for her poetry, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975, the Lamont Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets for Killing Floor, and National Endowment for the Arts Awards in 1978 and 1985. She received the American Book Award for Sin in 1987 and the National Book Award for Vice in 1999. In 2002-2003 she held the Mitte Chair in Creative Writing at Southwest Texas State University, and in December 2009, she was recognized with a United States Artists Ford Fellowship in literature.

From 1999 until her death, she was a professor in the Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma State University. A volume of new poems, No Surrender, is scheduled to be published by W. W. Norton in September 2010.

The poet Ai is survived by her half-sister, Rosslyn O’Carroll, and by many colleagues, students, and friends.

The OSU Department of English plans to establish a creative writing scholarship in Ai’s memory. Contributions may be sent to: Ai Scholarship, OSU Department of English, 205 Morrill Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078.

topics: News


John Guzlowski said on 3.22.10 at 5:32pm:

She taught me a lot about how to write a poem that wasn’t afraid of itself and what it had to say about the truth.

rdl said on 4.02.10 at 10:07am:

Sad to hear of this. I have her first book, Cruelty from 1973 in my bookcase.