Ai is a poet who has published seven books. Her first book, Cruelty, appeared in 1973, Sin(1986)was given the American Book Award, and Vice (1999) won the National Book Award. Ai writes dramatic monologues, offering insights of the thoughts of different characters, such as historical figures like Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Custer, or serial killers. Her works have been described as tough-edged and dark, and Ai responds that she is merely reflecting the violence of American culture. She received an MFA in 1971 from the University of California, Irvine. The recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in addition to a Guggenheim and Bunting fellowship, Ai served as a professor of English at Oklahoma State University.