cover image Worshipful Company of Fletchers

Worshipful Company of Fletchers

James Tate. Ecco, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-88001-380-2

No other writer is quite like Tate (Reckoner). His earnest verbal anarchy is visual, musical and difficult to characterize or resist. Jazzlike, he seems to invent experience, not just poetry, and the effect is exhilarating for a reader. What is his work about? Envisioning possibilities, and then criticizing, selecting and amending these. Reading a poem is like entering into someone else's rant or vision; one passes through many surprising points of contact in a cloud of apprehension. The encounter for a reader is incongruous, quickening and qualified by Tate's sardonic sense of mischief. ``We are tiny germs that cannot be seen under microscopes,'' he suggests in ``How The Pope is Chosen,'' and in fact Tate conducts himself rather like a germ: fugitive, vital, typically disruptive. The charm of his quick-witted exploits is considerable-but ``charm'' doesn't really describe the intense pleasures of a high-riding imagination that pauses to observe that ``a melancholy bug preens its antennae'' or to report that ``a child has left home and fallen asleep/ on her pink valise beneath a tulip tree.'' (Sept.)