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Cruelty Upon the Ordinary


By Hank Korsan


    Ai Ogawa writes dramatic monologues about struggling humans seeking change. Identifying herself as Native American, African American, Japanese, and Irish, Ai is a multi- cultured philosopher, writer, and spokesperson. Originally born Florence Anthony, at 18 years of age her name was legally switched to Ai Ogawa after understanding how she was conceived between her mother and a complete stranger. She changed her name to Ai because it means “love” in Japanese, and she did not want to familiarize herself with her father she had never met. Ai depicts the brutal nature of humans in poems she transcribed, capturing intimate moments that usually are not discussed in common literature.

    Ai begun writing poetry when she was ten years old, after moving to Los Angeles, California from Arizona. She always had a focus of incorporating disturbing and abrupt visions into her work, hoping the reader can have an intense sentiment while reading. Ai attended multiple universities pursuing her passion writing poetry. Eventually she received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Irvine, and met professor Galway Kinnell who tougher her that using the first person point of view makes writing more emotional and vivid to the reader. Ai has written numerous monologues, and fills them with rhetoric devices and deep topics to keep the viewer always interested. Her writing has been prevalent to modern day doleful poets because it is very controversial to study. It creates a style and tone that writers want to follow.

    Ai creates abstract moments of human life that are often disturbing or graphic. In one of the detailed monologues she wrote named, The Kid, Ai mixes innocence and violence to portray an unsettling scene. In the second stanza of the poem, she scribed,

“They’re down quick. I spit, my tongue’s bloody;   
I’ve bitten it. I laugh, remember the one out back.   
I catch her climbing from the truck, shoot.   
The doll lands on the ground with her”
(Ogawa 19).
Such a vivid scene depicts the unexpected and cruel nature of this act, as well as the innocence that follows. The young boy who has murdered both of his parents sits and watches them both bleed out and die. He feels guilt for a minute but when Ai states how how the boy laughed it off, it shows the naïve and unusual nature of the situation. The author puts anger and frustration into the boy’s personality, possibly representing being abused as a child or a traumatic life event. The little sister in the background demonstrates the light heartedness of the event. She does not try to disturb the beating. This defines how the kids calm reaction to their parents being pulverized, and how they had not sentiment a few minutes after seeing their parents dead. Ai Ogawa finds joy in writing these types of monologue, giving an ordinary family a scary twist. These actions reflect how life is deceiving and unjust. This is not normal in society, but there is a slim possibility that actions like murdering parents can happen. Her detailed imagery gives the reader a more emotional feel to the poem, as well as a sentiment of personal connection to one of the characters in the monologue.

    Ai Ogawa not only writes abnormal pieces of literature, but creates emotion in her texts that each reader can feel. Ai has written a numerous amount of poems and monologues throughout the years, but one of her most noted poems is titled “Twenty Year Marriage.” The author puts a graphic and detailed spin on a twenty year married couple. She states,

“You keep me waiting in a truck…
Hurry. I’ve got nothing on under my skirt tonight.   
That still excites you...
Pretend you don’t owe me a thing…   
leaving the past stacked up behind us”
(Ogawa 8).
Ai captures the point of view of a woman who is neglected by her partner, except for the interactions of sex. Creating another normal setting, Ai puts another strange twist on the average road trip between a couple. When the protagonist talks about the husband, she speaks with more disdain than ordinary couples do. There are always problems in relationships, but the author foreshadows past issues between the two a lot. Ai depicts the wife as someone who is intimidated of her husband, but has contained the same love for the man since the beginning. He may have been abusive mentally or physically, but the actions and words of the women exemplify how abnormal the poem is. The nature of this poem is to make the text relatable to females in modern society. She incorporates stirring emotions and phrases into her work that detail scary realistic scenes. Ai wants to make the reader feel something when reading her work.

    Finally, in the poem, “The Killing Floor,” Ai Ogawa illustrates her abnormal, eerie style of writing. The poem is set in 1917 during Bolsheviks Revolution, and Ai conducts a graphic political piece of literature. She wrote,

“I rub my eyes, then wade back to shore,   
undress and lie down,
until Stalin comes from his place beneath the birch tree.
He folds my clothes
and I button myself in my marmot coat,
and together we start the long walk back to Moscow”
(Ogawa 9).
Russia, being a time of pure hostility during 1917 already put the story in a melancholy place. The speaker is a male, close to Stalin’s power source at the time. Ai Ogawa wrote this poem because it foreshadows the future of history. She wanted to express how Russia did not follow through with the idea of a democratic government, and showed how poorly designed their country was. Ai demonstrated her thoughts through her unique style of poetry, giving history and politics a twist. Conveying a similar message in the same poem, Ai Ogawa states,
“I want to scream, but silence holds my tongue   
Stalin has to press his ear to my mouth:   
I have only myself. Put me on the train.   
I won’t look back”
(Ogawa 32).
The authors dramatic use of diction helps support her abnormal style of writing. It gives the poem a spooky sentiment and helps the reader understand the extent of the situation. When Ai explained how the main character wanted to scream but could not, it puts spotlight on how strict the Russian government was. They did not want their republic to become a rebellion. Ai does a phenomenal job creating a certain mood and tone throughout her works.

    Her style of describing brutal and cruel events to ordinary people gives the poetic society a new shade of light. Ai Ogawa lived a long, happy life, despite her writing encounters. Unfortunately, on March 20, 2010, the beloved writer past away from the horrid disease of pneumonia. Her poetry and philosophies are still being preached to this day, by fellow poets and admirers. Ai’s dark and spontaneous moments of poetry represented her self experiences. She wanted the American people to understand that the stories she writes are real issues. It is time for society to stand up for what is right, even though it may not be the most appropriate decision.

Work Cited

"Ai." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.
"Ai Interviewd by Lawrence Kearney and Micheal Cuddihy." Ai Interviewd by Lawrence Kearney and Micheal Cuddihy. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.
Ai Ogawa - Ai Ogawa Biography - Poem Hunter. "Ai Ogawa - Ai Ogawa Biography - Poem Hunter." PoemHunter.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.
"Ai Ogawa." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.
"The Kid Summary - ENotes.com." Enotes.com. Enotes.com, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.
Overthinker..., The Thoughts of an. "What I Think "The Kid" Did {An Essay about Ai's Poem The Kid}." What I Think “The Kid” Did {An Essay about Ai's Poem The Kid}. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

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