James Tate Gives Us a “Worshipful” Collection of Poems

Ah, a book review! Funny thing is, I should be crafting more of these for sure. But allow me to reveal myself – I’ve never been as much of a reader as a writer really. Ever since I seriously fell in love with the aspect of writing, I’ve delved into that aspect of literacy a whole lot more than reading. This isn’t to say that I’m a bad reader, since that would certainly be counter-intuitive. I guess I’ve always been more of a hands-on person when it comes to literature and especially poetry; more interested in crafting my own works than relishing in what others have done already. I don’t think it makes me any stronger of a writer, and quite honestly I see it as a flaw. Because of this, I’ve pretty much taught myself how to write properly, and I still struggle with some beginner aspects of it including grammar and vocabulary. I’ve made big leaps through perseverance alone I suppose, but there’s still much to learn for sure.

Before I digress too much, let’s get into the subject at hand. As much of a poet as I claim to be, I barely read any of it. I have an immense respect for the masters, but as I’ve mentioned, I almost always rather write than read. Most of my inspirations have come from lyricism, music and film; this book is an exception. James Tate has been a richly acclaimed writer of American poetry ever since his first book from the 60s, and this volume released in 1994 entitled A Worshipful Company of Fletchers remains very influential to me and practically helped lay the foundations of what I base my own work off of.

The poems within are unlike anything I’ve ever come across. They read more like ultra-miniature stories and structurally expand in a very loosely composed free verse. The stories themselves are so surreal as to be considered somewhat nonsensical; like scrambles of a recalled dream in a memo pad on a nightstand. Pretty much anything is possible under the title of any given poem, and this leads Tate to paint incredibly strange, linear and beautifully humorous words. He seems to have the peculiar talent to be able to make a poem out of nothing at all, and yet write it as though some coveted and magnificent riddle lies beneath all the wild imagery and cockamamie dialogue. The greatest part though lies in the possibility that there might be something very moral embedded in the words, or just a lot of hot air. You’re never really sure.

I’ve always felt analyzing a poem’s meaning is almost like dissecting it to its skeleton, rendering it into a bunch of bones that really aren’t interesting at all before you add all the color and decor to it to make into a true body of the imagination. I feel that the reader should always be left to take whatever he or she wants to take from it. A poem should only be able to evoke a feeling, and at its most potent, allow for readers to be lifted out of themselves for a moment and into the world that the poem paints for them. This book has a remarkable way of doing just that, and I always find myself coming back to it for some much needed escapism. Those of you who look for these attributes in their poetry of choice are definitely recommended to give it a read. Besides, it couldn’t have been awarded the National Book Award for Poetry if all I said was a lie, right?

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