The Last Poems of James Tate

Dan Chiasson at The New Yorker:

Tate’s final work will lodge him permanently in the landscape of American poetry, but, like Dickinson, he will always also be a local phenomenon. In 2004, he published a poem, “Of Whom Am I Afraid?,” about encountering “an old grizzled farmer” at the supply store. They strike up a conversation about Dickinson’s poetry. (It may seem unlikely, or “Surreal,” but Amherst has always had its share of literary farmers.) These two men discuss Dickinson’s toughness; then the farmer, testing Tate’s own mettle, slaps him across the face. Somehow this is a form of homage, and Tate commemorates the occasion by buying “some ice tongs . . . for which I had no earthly use.” They wind up, instead, in a poem. It’s that higher utility that Tate always sought.

more here.

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