The Government Lake

James Tate. Ecco, $16.50 ISBN 978-0-06-291471-2
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)
Reviewed on : 06/13/2019
Release date: 07/01/2019
Genre: Poetry
Ebook - 96 pages - 978-0-06-291473-6
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