James Vincent Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1943. He began college study at the University of Missouri in Columbia and finished his B.A. at Kansas State College in Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1965. He entered the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and received an M.F.A. in poetry in 1967. In 1966, Tate began teaching creative writing and literature courses at the University of Iowa (1966-1967), the University of California, Berkeley (1967-1968), Columbia University (1969-1971), and Emerson College in Boston (poet-in-residence, 1970-1971). He joined the regular teaching faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1971, where he would remain except for short periods of residence in such places as Sweden, Ireland, and Spain.
James Vincent Tate grew up in the Midwest and was educated at the University of Missouri at Columbia and at Kansas State College, where he received his B.A. He began writing poems seriously during these years and, on the basis of their quality, he was admitted to the University of Iowa’s Creative Writing program, one of the best of its kind. By the time he received his M.F.A. degree in 1967, he had begun a teaching career of his own and achieved some small acclaim as a poet. From 1966 to 1967, he subsidized his studies as a graduate instructor and saw a few of his poems collected in a small monograph printed in limited edition, Cages, as well as anthologized in Poets of the Heartland. Shortly thereafter he won the Yale Younger Poets Series competition, which led to the publication of his first full-fledged book of poems, The Lost Pilot. It was an auspicious debut. Tate, the series’ youngest winner, was hailed as one of the most promising voices of his generation.
He spent the 1967 to 1968 academic year at the University of California at Berkeley as a visiting lecturer, after which he returned to the East Coast and for two years taught at Columbia University. After spending 1970 to 1971 in Boston as poet-in-residence at Emerson College, he began teaching at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. By this time Tate had to his credit nearly a dozen monograph-length works published in limited editions by fine arts presses; a second book, The Oblivion Ha-Ha, issued by a major publisher (Little, Brown); a third book, Absences, nearing publication; and a lengthy list of publications in an array of magazines and literary journals, including The New Yorker, The Nation, and the Paris Review.
Tate went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for his Selected Poems, a volume providing striking evidence of his productivity. His other work notwithstanding, The Lost Pilot may be his most beloved work, and the one where his most immediate roots as poet are to be found. In this work can be heard echoes of such Midwestern poets...