Friday, April 04, 2008

James Tate

First, a bit of a prose poem by James Tate. His new book is called The Ghost Soldiers. This is from "What I Learned from the Elves":

When I got home from the office, I found that the elves had rearranged my furniture. At first, I was angry, but, then, I realized it was a much more sensible arrangement, and more attractive, too. I wanted to thank the little devils, but you could never find them when you wanted to. They lived in the forest right beside my house, and it was dense and dark in there. Occasionally, I would catch sight of them running from a neighbor's house, arms full of silver tureens and pitchers. Usually, they knew I saw them, but they knew, too, that I never reported them to anyone. So, I guess this free interior design was their way of paying me back. It's not the kind of thing you want to mention to anyone else. "Elves rearranged my furniture, and they did a brilliant job." "That's great! I wonder if they'd help me?" "I'll talk to them and see what I can do." That is not a likely exchange. People are so narrow minded. They walk around with blinders on. We are small and helpless and riddled with fears. At least I am.[...]

This is from The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor:

"Christmas morning my mother and I left the house in town and turned down in front of the Mansion. There we espied this walking creature, seven feet tall, in a flowing black karacul robe with a Russian hat a foot and a half high on its head. "What is that?" my mother said, stopping the car. We looked close and perceived it was Maryat [Lee, a good friend of O'Connor's, also a writer]. She had blown in in the middle of the night as is her wont. Some stage designer had made the clothes for her. She went to every party that the college people had the three days she was here and wore those clothes."

This letter is addressed to James Tate. It is, I'm almost completely certain, a different James Tate. This one is from Milledgville, and when O'Connor writes to him, he's in Iceland with the military.

I picked up a copy of The Habit of Being yesterday, though, and this was the first letter I turned to, and then I decided that today I would suggest you read some James Tate.

What I like about James Tate is the way a prose poem of his will start in one place, and then go someplace else, allow you to make some sort of semi-conscious connection, and then go back.

I like looking up James Tate on Wikipedia, too, because the disambiguation page says that "James Tate" is a "human name."

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