The Government Lake: Last Poems

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A baby is born with see-through skin. A man befriends a corpse. A beloved dog goes missing and is replaced by a camel. These are just a few of the odd scenarios in the poems of James Tate’s final collection, The Government Lake: Last Poems.

Thematically, death and all its machinations are at the heart of these poems. People die and no one cares, people and animals are resurrected without any real cause, and children are born or hoped for or discarded with little fanfare. And nearly all the poems feature some measure of loneliness or loss. Written, as they were, in the last years of Tate’s life, the macabre subject matter and dark humor are seeming confrontations of what it is to live an American life of dissatisfaction, falsehood, and failure. Where joy appears, it is often in the form of an animal or an accident—some strange occurrence that delights the poem’s speaker or protagonist without explanation.

The poems read like micro-fiction; each work is a miniature study of an individual or a relationship. The language is precise and spars—there is no fat on these poems—and the premises are surreal at best. While Tate’s work is worth reading simply for the oddity in each piece, it may not be accessible to readers who prefer more traditional poetry.


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Author James Tate
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 96 pages
Publisher Ecco
Publish Date 2019-07-02
ISBN 9780062914712
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue October 2019
Category Poetry & Short Stories
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