James Tate was a 23-year-old graduate student when he won the Yale Series of Younger Poet’s award for The Lost Pilot. A dozen subsequent collections have established him as one of the foremost American surrealist poets and winner of every major honor, from the $100,000 Tanning Prize to the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Prolific and wildly inventive, Tate has been hailed by the Village Voice as “the best American poet born in the 1940s,” by the New York Times as “an elegant, anarchic clown,” and by poet and critic Dana Gioia as “the perpetual enfant terrible of American poetry.” Father of ‘conversational’ or ‘homespun’ surrealism, famous for making the genre accessible and popular in the U. S. for the first time in the ’60s and ’70s, he has also been translated into over a dozen languages. Tate’s poems are irreverent, hallucinatory, utterly unafraid – he says he’s “willing to follow a poem anywhere so long as it promises some insight or revelation” – often deadly serious and riotously funny simultaneously.

Tate’s latest works include Memoir of the Hawk: Poems and Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee, a collection of short stories. As poet John Ashbery writes, he “never ceases to astonish, dismay, delight, confuse, tickle, and generally improve the quality of our lives.” Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and makes his home in Amherst, where he has been a member of the faculty of the University of Massachusetts since 1971.


Poems by James Tate

Read the Great Poets

The Workforce





    Poetry Center Reading:
    Fall 2002