Biography of James Tate
James Tate is an American poet whose work has earned him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
James Vincent Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his B.A. from Kansas State University in 1965 and then went on to earn his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in their famed Writer's Workshop.
Tate has taught creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. He currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he has worked since 1971. He is a member of the poetry faculty at the MFA Program for Poets & Writers, along with Dara Wier and Peter Gizzi.
Dudley Fitts selected Tate's first book of poems, The Lost Pilot (1967) for the Yale Series of Younger Poets while Tate was still a student at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop; Fitts praised Tate's writing for its "natural grace." Despite the early praise he received Tate alienated some of his fans in the seventies with a series of poetry collections that grew more and more strange.
He has published two books of prose, Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee (2001) and The Route as Briefed (1999). His awards include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, a Pulitzer Prize in poetry, a National Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is currently a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Tate's writing style is difficult to describe, but has been identified with the postmodernist and neo-surrealist movements. He has been known to play with phrases culled from news items, history, anecdotes, or common speech; later cutting, pasting, and assembling such divergent material into tightly woven compositions that reveal bizarre and surreal insights into the absurdity of human nature.
Some of his additional awards not already mentioned include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is also currently a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
James Tate's Works:
"The Eternal Ones of the Dream: Selected Poems 1990 - 2010" (Ecco Press, 2012)
The Ghost Soldiers (Ecco Press, 2008)
Return to the City of White Donkeys (2004)
Memoir of the Hawk (2002)
Shroud of the Gnome (Ecco Press, 1997)
Worshipful Company of Fletchers: Poems (Ecco Press, 1994) —winner of the National Book Award
Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1991) —winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award)
Distance from Loved Ones (Wesleyan University Press), 1990)
Reckoner (Wesleyan University Press, 1986)
Constant Defender (Ecco Press, 1983)
Riven Doggeries (Ecco Press, 1979)
Viper Jazz (Wesleyan University Press, 1976)
Absences: New Poems (Little, Brown & Co., 1972)
Hints to Pilgrims(Halty Ferguson, 1971)
The Oblivion Ha-Ha (Little, Brown & Co., 1970)
The Torches (1968)
The Lost Pilot (Yale University Press, 1967)
Lost River (Sarabande Books, 2003)
Land of Little Sticks (Metacom Press, 1981)
Just Shades (Parallel Editions, 1985, illustrated by John Alcorn)
Apology for Eating Geoffrey Movius’ Hyacinth (Unicorn Press, 1972)
Amnesia People (Little Balkans Press, 1970)
Wrong Songs (H. Ferguson, 1970)
Shepherds of the Mist (Black Sparrow Press, 1969)
Torches (Unicorn Press 1968)
Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee: 44 Stories (Verse Press, 2002)
The Route as Briefed (University of Michigan Press, 1999)
Hottentot Ossuary (Temple Bar Bookshop, 1974)
Lucky Darryl (Release Press, 1977, a novel co-written with Bill Knott)
Are You Ready, Mary Baker Eddy??? (Cloud Marauder Press, 1970, poems co-written with Bill Knott)
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James Tate Poems
It Happens Like This
I was outside St. Cecelia's Rectory smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me. It was mostly black and white, with a little reddish brown here and there. When I started to walk away,
Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream- ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it? A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled back, skin falling off. But he wasn't afraid of that. It was a beau-
A Knock On The Door
They ask me if I've ever thought about the end of the world, and I say, "Come in, come in, let me give you some lunch, for God's sake." After a few bites it's the afterlife they want to talk about.
The Lost Pilot
for my father, 1922-1944 Your face did not rot like the others--the co-pilot,
Never Again The Same
Speaking of sunsets, last night's was shocking. I mean, sunsets aren't supposed to frighten you, are they? Well, this one was terrifying.
Happy As The Day Is Long
I take the long walk up the staircase to my secret room. Today's big news: they found Amelia Earhart's shoe, size 9. 1992: Charlie Christian is bebopping at Minton's in 1941. Today, the Presidential primaries have failed us once again.
The List Of Famous Hats
Napoleon's hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that's not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all hon- esty wasn't much different than the one any jerk might buy at a
Like A Scarf
The directions to the lunatic asylum were confusing, more likely they were the random associations and confused ramblings of a lunatic. We arrived three hours late for lunch
The Wrong Way Home
All night a door floated down the river. It tried to remember little incidents of pleasure from its former life, like the time the lovers leaned against it kissing for hours
Shut Up And Eat Your Toad
The disorganization to which I currently belong has skipped several meetings in a row which is a pattern I find almost fatally attractive. Down at headquarters there's a secretary
Thinking Ahead To Possible Options And A...
I swerved to avoid hitting a squirrel in the center of the road and that's when the deer came charging out of the forest and forced me to hit the brakes for all I
Success Comes To Cow Creek
I sit on the tracks, a hundred feet from earth, fifty from the water. Gerald is
More Later, Less The Same
The common is unusually calm--they captured the storm last night, it's sleeping in the stockade, relieved of its duty, pacified, tamed, a pussycat. But not before it tied the flagpole in knots,
My Great Great Etc. Uncle Patrick Henry
There's a fortune to be made in just about everything in this country, somebody's father had to invent everything--baby food, tractors, rat poisoning. My family's obviously done nothing since the beginning
Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off. But he wasn't afraid of that. It was a beau-
tiful day. How 'bout some coffee? Don't mind if I do. Take a little
ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.