'More Later, Less The Same' by James Tate

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Worshipful Company of Fletchers1994The common is unusually calm--they captured the storm
last night, it's sleeping in the stockade, relieved
of its duty, pacified, tamed, a pussycat.
But not before it tied the flagpole in knots,
and not before it alarmed the firemen out of their pants.
Now it's really calm, almost too calm, as though
anything could happen, and it would be a first.
It could be the worst thing that ever happened.
All the little rodents are sitting up and counting
their nuts. What if nothing ever happened again?
Would there be enough to "eke out an existence,"
as they say? I wish "they" were here now, kicking
up a little dust, mussing my hair, taunting me
with weird syllogisms. Instead, these are the windless,
halcyon days. The lull dispassion is upon us.
Serenity has triumphed in its mindless, atrophied way.
A school of Stoics walks by, eager, in its phlegmatic way,
to observe human degradation, lust and debauchery
at close quarters. They are disappointed,
but it barely shows on their faces. They are late Stoa,
very late. They missed the bus. They should have
been here last night. The joint was jumping.
But people change, they grow up, they fly around.
It's the same old story, but I don't remember it.
It's a tale of gore and glory, but we had to leave.
It could have turned out differently, and it did.
I feel much the same way about the city of Pompeii.
A police officer with a poodle cut squirts his gun
at me for saying that, and it's still just barely
possible that I didn't, and the clock is running
out on his sort of behavior. I'm napping in a wigwam
as I write this, near Amity Street, which is buried
under fifteen feet of ashes and cinders and rocks.
Moss and a certain herblike creature are beginning to
whisper nearby. I am beside myself, peering down,
senselessly, since, for us, in space, there is
neither above nor below; and thus the expression
"He is being nibbled to death by ducks" shines
with such style, such poise, and reserve,
a beautiful, puissant form and a lucid thought.
To which I reply "It is time we had our teeth examined
by a dentist." So said James the Lesser to James the More.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, More Later, Less The Same: An Interpretation

Are you looking for a collection of poems that will take you on a wild ride through surreal landscapes and unexpected twists and turns? Look no further than James Tate's Poetry, More Later, Less The Same. This collection, first published in 1999, showcases Tate's unique style and voice, which has been compared to the likes of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.

The Absurdity of Everyday Life

One of the defining characteristics of Tate's poetry is its focus on the absurdity of everyday life. In "The Lost Pilot," for example, he tells the story of a pilot who crashes his plane and is never found. The poem is a meditation on loss and disappearance, but it is also sprinkled with absurd details, such as the image of the pilot's wife running around the house "in circles / waving her arms."

In "The Unforgettable Fire," Tate takes on the equally absurd topic of war. The poem begins with a description of a soldier who is "trying to light / a cigarette in the wind," a small, seemingly insignificant detail that highlights the chaos and confusion of war. As the poem progresses, Tate brings in more surreal elements, such as a man who "turns into a tree" and a woman who "becomes a lake."

Language Play and Experimentation

Another hallmark of Tate's poetry is his playful and experimental use of language. In "The Wheelchair Butterfly," for example, he invents a new word, "armpitiana," to describe the underside of a butterfly's wings. The poem is full of such neologisms and linguistic playfulness, which serve to highlight the strangeness of the world he is exploring.

Tate also experiments with form and structure, as in "The Red Wheelbarrow Reconsidered," a riff on William Carlos Williams' famous poem. Tate's version takes the form of a conversation between two characters, who debate the significance of the wheelbarrow and the chickens in Williams' poem. The poem is a clever commentary on the nature of interpretation and the ways in which meaning can be constructed.

The Search for Meaning

Despite the often nonsensical and surreal nature of Tate's poetry, there is a deep sense of searching for meaning and understanding that runs throughout the collection. In "The Blue Booby," for example, the speaker is drawn to a strange bird that he sees while sailing. He describes the bird's "unearthly blue" and its "impenetrable mystery," and wonders if it might hold the key to some greater truth.

In "The Eternal Ones of the Dream," the speaker is similarly preoccupied with questions of meaning and purpose. The poem tells the story of a group of people who are stranded on a train that never stops, and who eventually come to realize that they are "eternal ones" who have been chosen to live forever. The poem is a meditation on the nature of existence, and the ways in which we seek to find purpose and significance in our lives.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Poetry, More Later, Less The Same is a wildly inventive and thought-provoking collection of poetry that will push you to see the world in new and unexpected ways. Tate's surrealism and linguistic playfulness may be challenging at times, but they are also deeply rewarding for those who are willing to dive in and explore. Whether you are a seasoned poetry reader or a newcomer to the genre, this collection is well worth your time and attention.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry More Later, Less The Same: A Masterpiece of Surrealism

James Tate's Poetry More Later, Less The Same is a masterpiece of surrealism that takes the reader on a journey through a world of absurdity and wonder. The poem is a perfect example of Tate's unique style, which blends humor, irony, and surrealism to create a work that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a scene in which a group of people are gathered around a table, discussing the nature of poetry. The speaker is initially dismissive of the conversation, stating that "poetry is dead" and that "it's all been said before." However, as the conversation continues, the speaker becomes increasingly engaged, and begins to offer his own thoughts on the subject.

One of the most striking aspects of Poetry More Later, Less The Same is the way in which Tate uses language to create a sense of disorientation and confusion. The poem is filled with strange and unexpected images, such as "a man with a hat made of bread" and "a woman with a mouth full of bees." These images are both unsettling and fascinating, and they serve to draw the reader deeper into the surreal world of the poem.

Another key element of the poem is its use of humor. Tate is a master of irony and satire, and he uses these tools to great effect in Poetry More Later, Less The Same. For example, the speaker at one point declares that "poetry is a waste of time," only to immediately contradict himself by launching into a lengthy and passionate defense of the art form. This kind of playful irony is a hallmark of Tate's work, and it helps to keep the poem from becoming too heavy or ponderous.

Despite its surrealism and humor, however, Poetry More Later, Less The Same is ultimately a deeply serious work. The poem is a meditation on the nature of art and creativity, and it raises important questions about the role of the artist in society. At one point, the speaker declares that "the poet is a prophet," suggesting that the artist has a special insight into the world that others lack. This idea is further developed later in the poem, when the speaker describes a scene in which a group of people are gathered around a painting, trying to decipher its meaning. The speaker suggests that the painting is a kind of puzzle, and that only the artist can truly understand its significance.

Overall, Poetry More Later, Less The Same is a remarkable work of poetry that showcases James Tate's unique talents as a writer. The poem is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and it offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the most innovative poets of the 20th century. Whether you are a fan of surrealism, humor, or just great poetry in general, this is a work that is not to be missed.

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