Loads of Learned Lumber

Thursday, July 23, 2009

James Tate, _The Ghost Soldiers_

This is a hefty volume, 215 pages, considering we're only four years on from Return to the City of White Donkeys. One guesses Tate has been concentrating on writing poems -- well, what would we rather he do? Keep 'em coming, Mr. Tate.

The long, loose lines of Donkeys are longer and looser here, it seems to me, so long and so loose, in fact, that these seem to be prose poems with unjustified right-hand margins. Which diminishes my enjoyment not a whit...but I do wonder. I notice the lineation of "National Security" is exactly the same as it is in Best American Poetry 2008, so the lines are lines.

Moreover, the poems are Tate poems, with their oneiric logic in which the familiar turns into the terrifying and then back again without the voice ever quite losing its composure. The war casts a long shadow here, reminding us that our waking world has become as shape-shifting and ominous as our dreams, which is bad news indeed. Down the road, The Ghost Soldiers may be in its own way as useful a reminder of the political climate of the Bush years as, say, Juliana Spahr' s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs.

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