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The Ghost Soldiers: Poems

The Ghost Soldiers: Poems

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by James Tate

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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Tate returns with his fifteenth book of poetry, an exciting new collection that offers nearly one hundred fresh and thought-provoking pieces that embody Tate's trademark style and voice: his accessibility, his dark humor, and his exquisite sense of the absurd.

Tate's work is stark—he writes in clear, everyday


Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Tate returns with his fifteenth book of poetry, an exciting new collection that offers nearly one hundred fresh and thought-provoking pieces that embody Tate's trademark style and voice: his accessibility, his dark humor, and his exquisite sense of the absurd.

Tate's work is stark—he writes in clear, everyday language—yet his seemingly simple and macabre stories are layered with broad and trenchant meaning. His characters are often lost or confused, his settings bizarre, his scenarios brilliantly surreal. Opaque, inscrutable people float through a dreamlike world where nothing is as it seems. The Ghost Soldiers offers resounding proof, once again, that Tate stands alone in American poetry.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Over the past several books, the prolific Pulitzer Prize winner Tate (Return to the City of White Donkeys)has been inching toward the invention of a new kind of American poem, a hybrid of prose poetry (though he's got loose, almost arbitrary line breaks), fable, surrealism and a sort of outsider folk poetry. These chatty, narrative works humorously treat all kinds of subjects, from civil unrest (" 'There are soldiers everywhere. Its' hard/ to tell which side they're on,' I said. 'They're against us./ Everyone's against us. Isn't that what you believe'A ") to altruism ("I said I didn't want any help from anyone, but, then,/ when no one offered to help, I was really hurt") and wildcats ("I loved his quick, agile movements, never doubting himself,/ as most of us do). A dark undercurrent runs beneath them all, and war and politics-which tend to confuse the poems' speakers-are frequent subjects. It's rare that a poet so far into his career-this is Tate's 15th collection-comes up with something new; quietly, Tate has found a fresh way of telling some of America's stories. (Apr.)

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The Ghost Soldiers

Chapter One


The man that was following me looked like a government agent, so I turned around and walked up to him and said, "Why are you following me?" He said, "I'm not following you. I'm an insurance agent walking to work." "Well, pardon me, my mistake," I said. "Have you done something wrong, unpatriotic, or are you just paranoid?" he said. "I've done nothing wrong, certainly not unpatriotic, and I'm not paranoid," I said. "Well, nobody's ever mistaken me for a government agent before," he said. "I'm sorry," I said. "You have something weighing down on your conscience, don't you?" he said. "No, I don't. I'm just vigilant," I said. "Like a good criminal," he said. "Would you stop talking to me like that," I said. "I don't want to have anything to do with you." "You've committed some kind of treason and they're going to get you," he said. "You're out of your mind," I said. "Benedict Arnold, that's who you are," he said. "I'm going to a peace rally if that's okay with you," I said. "Oh, a peacenik. That's the same as treason," he said. "No, it isn't," I said. "Yes it is," he said. "No." "Yes." "No." "Yes." We reached his office door. "I really hate to say good-bye to you. Would you like to have lunch tomorrow?" he said. "I'd be delighted," I said. "Good. Then Sadie's Café at noon," he said. "Noon at Sadie's," I said.

The Ghost Soldiers. Copyright ? by James Tate. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

James Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1943. He is the author of seventeen books of poetry, including Worshipful Company of Fletchers, which won the National Book Award in 1994; Selected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award in 1991; and The Lost Pilot, which was selected by Dudley Fitts for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He has also published a novel and a collection of short stories, as well as edited The 1997 Best American Poetry Anthology. His honors include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, the Tanning Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

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Ghost Soldiers 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brush More than 1 year ago
Poetry is always supposed to sound better in verbal form; hidden meaning is captured when the words are spoken, certain pairings of sounds link together to form beautiful patterns. However, poetry rarely comes in the form of a conversation. That is precisely why James Tate's The Ghost Soldiers is full of rarity; his newest collection of poems enhances and brings his unique skill of simple yet complex writing to the forefront. Each poem infuses Tate's conversational way of writing and gracefully demands the attention of the reader. Interaction between speaker and reader is key, and in The Ghost Soldiers all the witticisms, humor, confusion, ambiguity, uniqueness, and creativity of Tate's style of writing is showcased often. Taking average situations and infusing them with a whimsical sense of sarcasm or humor is the forte of this poetry. Viewing events through the eyeglass of Tate's writing truly captures an absurd, intelligent, and altogether creative take on life. From the moment one opens the collection of poems and glances at the first piece, it is obvious to discover they differ from average poetry. All poetry tries to sound audible, as if the reader is speaking these words to the reader. However, James Tate tackles what it means to make a poem "conversational," adding dialogue that acts like fiction yet harnesses the ability to read like poetry. In Tate's poem "Desperate Talk," he infuses this conversational style of writing through his characters. Although rather choppy at times, it begins to read like rhythmic beats, echoing the words "I said" one after another. This type of quick conversation dialogue is not only showcased in this poem but also in poems like "Duct-Tape Celebration" and "The Scarab." In addition to various manipulations of dialogue, James Tate concocts the most abstract settings for his characters to reside in, often causing the most absurd actions to take place. His simple language pulls the reader into his created locales, then pleasantly torments them with a sense of absurdity. In his poem "A Boy And His Cow," Tate offers a whimsical portrayal of a normal situation. It is remarkable how attractive the poetry is to the eye, and how lost one can get in the flow of the words. In this poem the speaker continues to toss in various randomness within the situation, including doctor visits for human leakage and good-fortune beetles, then concludes with an almost normal ending. What seems so simplistic and normal turns out to be full of vitality. That is what makes Tate's poems so incredible; it feels like each poem is its own storybook waiting to be explored. The characters are often full of confusion and wonder, leaving the reader to also join them in that sense. In "The Nether World," Tate focuses on the nether world being physical travels, but also a longing state of mind. James Tate craftily wields his pen as he writes down the most absurd poems, simplistic yet complex language, and symbolic references; in each poem lives a vivid imagination bursting with underlying emotion and meaning. Each poem in his newest collection The Ghost Soldiers is smartly mastered to be a representation of all that Tate wants to offer: comments on society, humorous sarcasm, and a witty playfulness that will surely ignite the reader's interest. Getting immersed in poetry is never too hard, but fully participating in it is rare; The Ghost Soldiers by James Tate offers the opportunity to do just that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thousands of people who may never think to open a book of poetry would have their worlds turned upside down if they were handed this book. Tate's newest poems follow in the form of his last few books, short first-person vignettes, often back and forth conversations, in a space with its own existential eco-systems...perhaps a small town with infinite mirrors, dimensions, and reality portals. Each story resonates with emotional, and even political implications, but is never preachy or plagued by the sense of obligatory profundity of some poetry. In fact, the poems are unnervingly direct, with characters first and last names used as if sliced from a novel, or news report but then unfurling in dreamlike and dystopian dramas. The stranger the evening news becomes, the more spot-on Jim Tate's reporting seems to be. He, like the characters in many of the poems, remains based in reality, or desperately clinging to it as the world comes unglued. It is this almost frank strangeness, dealt with in matter-of-fact language, and laugh-or cry-or scream-out-loud material that I think is Tate's 'voice,' his method. Though not formulaic, each poem seems part of a puzzle piece that will almost but never quite fit together with all the others. These poems are often very funny and delightful read aloud, even to children, or at a bar as I've found, where I've sent many a citizen into the night with James Tate scrawled on a bar napkin.