Friday, November 19, 2004

Yet another question: is publishing a chapbook (of "under 24 pages", usually), and then using those poems in an ms for a full-length book, really ok? If I was a publisher, I might not like that so much. But I'm not a publisher, so I don't really know. The only book I know of which used poems from a previous chapbook ms is "Walking Liberty" by James Haug (via the Morse prize, I think), who had previously won the Center for Book Arts chapbook contest with some of those poems. Good book, though uneven, though it's been years, so I only remember impressions now.

Which brings me to the next topic at mind. James Tate. I've said previously I think the man's poetic is obsessed with renunciation of one thing in search of something else. The object of renunciation? I'm not sure what exactly but it has something to do with being a social man, or maybe just a man. And he is interested in social truths. In personal, social truths. His work does get schticky, but is always very enjoyable, often striking, and I think it's interesting that people feel that that is a slight quality--I'm not talking about a quality such as Billy Collins evidences, whereby he is acclaimed, by popular opinion, as an "accessible" "enjoyable" if a "bit light in the complexity, but hey, that goes with the first two qualities" poet. B.C. is boring, and a lot of us mostly think so. Not always, and going by the 'judge a poet by his/her best' rule-of-thumb, he has poems I am grateful for, so he's earned name-recognition as far as I'm concerned. But, in general, his poems do nothing for me, and I don't feel drawn to reading new ones. This is not the case with me or, I gather, with many other poets, for James Tate. For me that alone is enough for me to consider him an interesting poet, even if I am not able to express the nature of this interest in intellectual terms, in a worked-out and localizable framework.

I can say, as far as Tate's relationship to Ashbery goes (and now I'm back to where I started the previous paragraph), that he reveres the man, as far as I could tell, from the poetics class I took with Tate during my year at UMass-Amherst (in which class he assigned a bunch of books by friends and former students, one of which was the Haug, I began discussing above). And I think why at least partially answers the question Jonathan Mayhew raises, about how Tate came to be something of an Ashbery-lite even after demonstrating poetic maturity/viability before Ashbery overwhelmed the scene. Pertaining to the qualities of Tate's I perceive as outlined in the previous paragraph, I think Tate sees Ashbery as having both more successfully renounced those qualities and not been overwhelmed/defined by such renunciation--as having a deeper-consciousness, so to speak. I do not personally think Ashbery's 'project' is the same as Tate's--I think Ashbery's has more to do with death, but that's for another time, I guess--but I can say that Tate, when talking about his friendship with Ashbery, sounded like a 16-year-old who just met his sports star. He thinks that highly of Ashbery. And I admire him for it.

And yes, my sense of Tate's 'renunciation' is based at least partially on interacting personally with the man.

I have only dumb fact to add:

George Oppen, very very late in his carreer even, released a chapbook entitled "Alpine," which was then folded into (I believe) Seascape: Needle's Eye.Anyway, I hope it isn't detrimental (and if their judging blind, should it be an issue?) as I am currently entering both book and chapbook contests with a lot of overlap in content.

As for Tate, I enjoy your very humane way of assessing a poet's worth, so tell me, as one who is almost wholly ignorant of his work, what is the best of Tate? I'm intrigued by both yours and Josh Corey's kind of back-handed admiration.

I have to admit I don't know all his work so well to have more than a grazer's opinion (the guy is really prolific), but: when I say his best, I'm thinking of poems like "Good Time Jesus", a fair bit of "The Lost Pilot" (which really is different from what is to come), the poem "Distance from Loved Ones" as well as the book in general, and others which titles elude me. My list I have a feeling probably overlaps, but is mostly different than, Jonathan Mayhew's. The super-deep surrealist stuff doesn't resonate with me--I like some sense of a stable and engaged, however distant, psychology, involved, I think. His Selected, I remember, has some good stuff in it. But as far as books go, I'd suggest "Distance from Loved ones." And the lost pilot.

I'll look into it more for you.
Absolutely it's ok to include a previous chapbook collection in/within a full-length. Chaps don't have a large press run hence a small readership. As long as the full-length collection hasn't appeared as a whole all's well.

I met James Tate several years ago, very nice man. I have his collected poems book and tend to gravitate towards his early work, but it's been some time since I picked up his book. Definitely worth returning to, thanks for the reminder.
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