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Saturday, April 29, 2017

In early James Tate

In early James Tate there is a fine movement of surprise.  You never know whether a phrase is going where you expect it to, or in the opposite direction. Of course, if every line was surprising, the effect would quickly become wearisome.  Enjambments are deployed in a savvy way to keep the reader guessing. You will find surprising phrases like "lachrymal glands," but they are surprising because most of the words around them are not like that.

In the later Tate, the whole poem is one more coherent parable, and the cleverness is in the entire conceit, with less subtle movements from line to line.  It can be enjoyable but I find it tedious even in small doses.

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