cover image The Ghost Soldiers

The Ghost Soldiers

James Tate, The Ghost SoldiersJames Tate<. , $22.95 (217pp) ISBN 978-0-06-143694-9

Over the past several books, the prolific Pulitzer Prize winner Tate (Return to the City of White Donkeys) has been inching toward the invention of a new kind of American poem, a hybrid of prose poetry (though he’s got loose, almost arbitrary line breaks), fable, surrealism and a sort of outsider folk poetry. These chatty, narrative works humorously treat all kinds of subjects, from civil unrest (“ 'There are soldiers everywhere. Its’ hard/ to tell which side they’re on,’ I said. 'They’re against us./ Everyone’s against us. Isn’t that what you believe’ ”) to altruism (“I said I didn’t want any help from anyone, but, then,/ when no one offered to help, I was really hurt”) and wildcats (“I loved his quick, agile movements, never doubting himself,/ as most of us do). A dark undercurrent runs beneath them all, and war and politics—which tend to confuse the poems’ speakers—are frequent subjects. It’s rare that a poet so far into his career—this is Tate’s 15th collection—comes up with something new; quietly, Tate has found a fresh way of telling some of America’s stories. (Apr.)