The government lake Last poems

James Tate, 1943-2015

Book - 2019

"A rat climbs onto the desk of a bored office worker. A family dog never stops coming back to life. Every prisoner on earth is freed. A man becomes friends with a bank robber who abducts him. A baby is born transparent. James Tate's work, filled with unexpected turns and deadpan exaggeration, 'fanciful and grave, mundane and transcendent' (New York Times), has been among the most defining and significant of our time. In his last collection, written before his death in 2015, Tate's dark humor, his emotional acuity, and his keen ear are on full display in prose poems that are finely constructed, lyrical, and provocative. With The Government Lake, James Tate reminds us why he is one of the great poets of our age and a ...true master."--Page 2 of cover.

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Prose poems
New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2019]
Main Author
James Tate, 1943-2015 (author)
First edition
Physical Description
vii, 82 pages ; 24 cm
  • Eternity
  • My New Pet
  • Into the Night
  • The Seahorse
  • The Prairie Dog Town Under Attack
  • Partners
  • Debbie and the Lumberjack
  • Double-Trouble
  • Roscoe's Farewell
  • The Sky Is Falling Like Bunnies
  • A Pea in a Pod
  • Everything But Thomas
  • O Josephina
  • The Jackdaw's Head
  • Fishing in the Sea of Galilee
  • The Cow and the Butterflies
  • The Phone Call
  • Elvis Has Left the House
  • A Shift in the Attic
  • The Execution
  • The Shepherd
  • The Liar
  • Magic
  • Out of Breath
  • The Thief
  • The Walk Home
  • Second Childhood
  • The Argonaut
  • The Floorplan to Heaven
  • The Shadows of the Trees on the Water
  • Transparent Child
  • The Dead Man's Friend
  • My Father and Me
  • The Government Lake
  • The Devil
  • Too Late
  • The Prayer
  • The Visiting Doctor
  • Married to the Wrong Man
  • The Final Vacation
  • A Dream Come True
  • The Truth
  • I sat at my desk and contemplated all that I had accomplished
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this imaginative second posthumous volume after Dome of the Hidden Pavilion, Tate (1943--2015) offers his last absurdist fables, including one discovered in the writer's typewriter after his death. If the poems of Tate's career--which included winning the National Book Award, the Pulitzer, and the Yale Younger Poets Prize--have frequently invoked death as one among several transformations, its presence in these poems is particularly striking: a fox eats a house full of chickens, a snake kills and replaces a pet dog, and a nun spontaneously combusts and reappears at the edge of a crowd. The rest of the book investigates impermanence with Tate's signature combination of sly humor and poignant sincerity. But the pivots of this collection are the workings of memory or language: "Not quite. Oliver sat in his chair like a man in a mudhole. Oliver sat in his chair like a pixie on a rosebud. I think that might be it." When Tate brings these linguistic shifts to the voices of his speakers, the poems are among his best, as in the title poem: " 'What about that man out there?' I said, pointing to the tire. 'He's dead,' he said. 'No, he's not. I just saw him move his arm,' I said. He removed his pistol from his holster and fired a shot. 'Now he's dead,' he said." These prose poems offer a familiar reentry into the humor and unexpectedness of Tate's world. (July)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Few contemporary or recent poets have exerted more influence than Tate (1943--2015), whose first collection, The Lost Pilot, was selected by Dudley Fitts for the Yale Younger Poets Prize and whose Selected Poems won the Pulitzer in 1991. Tate devised his own strand of disjunctive, surreal, disquieting, and jokey poetry, and his strange collisions of images have been widely imitated. This volume is his last collection--the final poem was found, as is in his typewriter--and marshals a set of stylistically related prose poems. Tate's method, as ever, carries the danger of distancing the reader from the figures and experiences in the poems, yet it is easy to see the affinities of these brief prose pieces with the parables of Franz Kafka and the fiction of Donald Barthelme; they are at once startling, saddening, and amusing. VERDICT Tate's readers will not be disappointed in his final work, which evinces no diminishment of his talent or failure of his wry-necked perspective on worldly experience.--Graham Christian, formerly with Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA

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