James Tate Quotes
“Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dreaming 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 beautiful 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.”
“for my father, 1922-1944
Your face did not rot
like the others--the co-pilot,
for example, I saw him
yesterday. His face is corn-
mush: his wife and daughter,
the poor ignorant people, stare
as if he will compose soon.
He was more wronged than Job.
But your face did not rot
like the others--it grew dark,
and hard like ebony;
the features progressed in their
distinction. If I could cajole
you to come back for an evening,
down from your compulsive
orbiting, I would touch you,
read your face as Dallas,
your hoodlum gunner, now,
with the blistered eyes, reads
his braille editions. I would
touch your face as a disinterested
scholar touches an original page.
However frightening, I would
discover you, and I would not
turn you in; I would not make
you face your wife, or Dallas,
or the co-pilot, Jim. You
could return to your crazy
orbiting, and I would not try
to fully understand what
it means to you. All I know
is this: when I see you,
as I have seen you at least
once every year of my life,
spin across the wilds of the sky
like a tiny, African god,
I feel dead. I feel as if I were
the residue of a stranger's life,
that I should pursue you.
My head cocked toward the sky,
I cannot get off the ground,
and, you, passing over again,
fast, perfect, and unwilling
to tell me that you are doing
well, or that it was mistake
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune
placed these worlds in us.”
“They didn't have much trouble
teaching the ape to write poems:
first they strapped him into a chair,
then tied the pencil around his hand
(the paper had already been nailed down).
Then Dr. Bluespire leaned over his shoulder
and whispered into his ear:
'You look like a god sitting there.
Why don't you try writing something?”
“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, it followed. I was amused and delighted, but wondered what the laws were on this kind of thing. There's a leash law for dogs, but what about goats? People smiled at me and admired the goat. "It's not my goat," I explained. "It's the town's goat. I'm just taking my turn caring for it." "I didn't know we had a goat," one of them said. "I wonder when my turn is." "Soon," I said. "Be patient. Your time is coming." The goat stayed by my side. It stopped when I stopped. It looked up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew everything essential about me. We walked on. A police- man on his beat looked us over. "That's a mighty fine goat you got there," he said, stopping to admire. "It's the town's goat," I said. "His family goes back three-hundred years with us," I said, "from the beginning." The officer leaned forward to touch him, then stopped and looked up at me. "Mind if I pat him?" he asked. "Touching this goat will change your life," I said. "It's your decision." He thought real hard for a minute, and then stood up and said, "What's his name?" "He's called the Prince of Peace," I said. "God! This town is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there's mystery and wonder. And I'm just a child playing cops and robbers forever. Please forgive me if I cry." "We forgive you, Officer," I said. "And we understand why you, more than anybody, should never touch the Prince." The goat and I walked on. It was getting dark and we were beginning to wonder where we would spend the night.”
“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.
"Ouch," I say, "did you see that grape leaf
skeletonizer?" Then they're talking about
redemption and the chosen few sitting right by
His side. "Doing what?" I ask. "Just sitting?" I
am surrounded by burned up zombies. "Let's
have some lemon chiffon pie I bought yesterday
at the 3 Dog Bakery." But they want to talk about
my soul. I'm getting drowsy and see butterflies
everywhere. "Would you gentlemen like to take a
nap, I know I would." They stand and back away
from me, out the door, walking toward my
neighbors, a black cloud over their heads and
they see nothing without end.”
“What I thought was infinite will turn out to be just a couple
of odds and ends, a tiny miscellany, miniature stuff, fragments
of novelties, of no great moment. But it will also be enough,
maybe even more than enough, to suggest an immense ritual and tradition.
And this makes me very happy.
From "Happy As The Day Is Long”
“Hands full of sand,
I say: take this,
this is what I have saved;
I earned this with my genius,
and because I love you...
Take this, hurry.
I am dropping everything
and then I listened:
I was not saying anything;
out of all that had gone into
the composition of the language
and what I knew of it
I had chiselled these words
- take this, hurry-
and you could not hear me.
I had said nothing.
And then I am leaving,
making ready to go to another street,
when you, mingled between sleep
and delirium, turned
and handed me an empty sack:
Take this, my friend;
I am not coming back.
The ghost of a flower poised on your lip”
“I was a dog in my former life, a very good
dog, and, thus, I was promoted to a human being.
I liked being a dog. I worked for a poor farmer
guarding and herding his sheep. Wolves and coyotes
tried to get past me almost every night, and not
once did I lose a sheep. the farmer rewarded me
with good food, food from his table. He may have
been poor, but he ate well. and his children
played with me, when they weren’t in school or
working in the field. I had all the love any dog
could hope for. When I got old, they got a new
dog, and I trained him in the tricks of the trade.
He quickly learned, and the farmer brought me into
the house to live with them. I brought the farmer
his slippers in the morning, as he was getting
old, too. I was dying slowly, a little bit at a
time. The farmer knew this and would bring the
new dog in to visit me from time to time. The
new dog would entertain me with his flips and
flops and nuzzles. And then one morning I just
didn’t get up. They gave me a fine burial down
by the stream under a shade tree. That was the
end of my being a dog. Sometimes I miss it so
I sit by the window and cry. I live in a high-rise
that looks out at a bunch of other high-rises.
At my job I work in a cubicle and barely speak
to anyone all day. This is my reward for being
a good dog. The human wolves don’t even see me.
They fear me not.”
“Poem (I Can’t Speak for the Wind)
I don’t know about the cold.
I am sad without hands.
I can’t speak for the wind
Which chips away at me.
When pulling a potato, I see only the blue haze.
When riding an escalator, I expect something
orthopedic to happen.
Sinking in quicksand, I’m a wild appaloosa.
I fly into a rage at the sight of a double-decker bus,
I want to eat my way through the Congo,
I’m a double agent who tortures himself
and still will not speak.
I don’t know about the cold,
But I know what I like I like tropical madness,
I like to shake the coconuts
And fingerprint the pythons,-
fevers which make the children dance.
I am sad without hands,
I’m very sad without sleeves or pockets.
Winter is coming to this city,
I can’t speak for the wind
which chips away at me.”
- Date of birth: December 08, 1943
- Died: July 08, 2015
- Born: in Kansas City, MO, The United States.
- Description: James Vincent Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He taught creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University, and at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he worked since 1971. He was 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 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 was also 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.