RIP James Tate (1943-2015)

Photo Credit: William Stafford

According to The Recorder out of Greenfield, Massachusetts, the surrealist poet James Tate has died at age 71.

Tate is a recipient of the National Book Award for his collection Worshipful Company of Fletchers and the Pulitzer Prize for his 1991 book Selected PoemsSelected Poems also won the William Carlos Williams Award. His debut collection The Lost Pilot (1967) won the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Tate taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and resided in Massachusetts for over three decades. In a 2006 interview with fellow poet and friend Charles Simic, Tate describes the natural beauty he found in Amherst and admits that most every speaker or character in his poems he imagined to be in Amherst: “I’ve imagined that every character and every single event takes place in this town, Amherst.” Interestingly, however, Tate chose never to mention Amherst by name. He felt it best to leave the setting open to the possibility of “any small town.”

Tate earned his master’s degree at the University of Iowa after graduating from Kansas State College. According to The Recorder, he also was chancellor of the Academy of American poets for six years from 2001 to 2007. His wife, poet Dara Wier, also teaches at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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