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James Tate Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms112

The James Tate Papers consists almost entirely of Tate’s correspondence with Charles Simic. These letters provide an interesting insight into Tate’s writing and his ideas on contemporary poetry, and many include Tate’s opinions on and suggestion for Simic’s poetry. Some letters also contain discussions on other contemporary poets. All letters are from Tate. Other items in the collection include manuscripts by Tate: “Cruisin’ Even.” Typescript, 1 page on verso of letter to Simic, 1972: October 8. “Return to a Place Lit by a Hamburger.” Typescript, 1 page, on postcard to Simic, 1975: November 12. “A Guide to the Stone Age.” Typescript, 1 page no date. “Urgent Letter to Charles Simic Concerning the State of Poetry and the Angel of Death.” Typescript, 1 page 1970: February 27.


  • 1970-1980


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


1.00 boxes

Biographical or Historical Information

James Vincent Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his B.A. from Kansas State University in 1965 and then went on to earn his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in their famed Writer's Workshop.

Dudley Fitts selected Tate's first book of poems, The Lost Pilot (1967) for the Yale Series of Younger Poets while Tate was still a student at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop; Fitts praised Tate's writing for its "natural grace." Despite the early praise he received Tate alienated some of his fans in the seventies with a series of poetry collections that grew more and more strange. Tate's writing style is difficult to describe, but has been identified with the postmodernist and neo-surrealist movements. He has been known to play with phrases culled from news items, history, anecdotes, or common speech; later cutting, pasting, and assembling such divergent material into tightly woven compositions that reveal bizarre and surreal insights into the absurdity of human nature.

His awards include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, a Pulitzer Prize in poetry, a National Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He recently served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Tate has taught creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he was a member of the poetry faculty at the MFA Program for Poets and Writers. He died in Springfield, Massachusetts in July, 2015.

Source of Acquisition

Accession number 1695. Purchased from George R. Minkoff, Inc., August 1, 1986


James Tate Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2020 October 27: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495