The Government Lake: Last Poems

HarperCollins. Jul. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780062914712. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062914736.
Few contemporary or recent poets have exerted more influence than Tate (1943–2015), whose first collection, The Lost Pilot, was selected by Dudley Fitts for the Yale Younger Poets Prize and whose Selected Poems won the Pulitzer in 1991. Tate devised his own strand of disjunctive, surreal, disquieting, and jokey poetry, and his strange collisions of images have been widely imitated. This volume is his last collection—the final poem was found, as is in his typewriter—and marshals a set of stylistically related prose poems. Tate’s method, as ever, carries the danger of distancing the reader from the figures and experiences in the poems, yet it is easy to see the affinities of these brief prose pieces with the parables of Franz Kafka and the fiction of Donald Barthelme; they are at once startling, saddening, and amusing.
VERDICT Tate’s readers will not be disappointed in his final work, which evinces no diminishment of his talent or failure of his wry-necked perspective on worldly experience.
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