The Selected Poems James Tate's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection and his first British publication, gathers work from nine previous books, from the Lost Pilot which was a Yale Younger Poets selection in 1967, through his 1986 collection Reckoner. He is a most agile poet in a precarious world. Life is alarming and absurd, but properly considered that absurdity reveals, often with laughter, the something else by which we live. The poems are about our world, our wrecked, vexed love for it. Tate has been described as a surrealist. If that is what he is, his surrealism issues in a vision of a world delivered back to itself by his unillusioned subversion and candor.
A selection representative of 25 years of work and nine books, from Lost Pilot (1967) through Reckoner (1986), these poems showcase Tate's talent for surreal entertainment that reveals an underlying serious point. He writes: "I am surrounded by the pieces of this huge/puzzle: here's a piece I call my wife, and/ here's an odd one I call convictions, here's/ conventions, here's collisions, conflagrations . . . " In such high comedy Tate leaves lingering questions about the problems of existence, while leaving too a smile on the reader's face. The book won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.