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.