James Tate


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For poet James Tate, writing is both a spiritual activity and a compulsion. In this On the Fly interview, recorded in October 2010 when Tate was in Iowa City to read on the University of Iowa Campus, he reveals his thoughts about who is a writer:

“Only those who people who absolutely have to write, must write, are writing for no other reason than that they must write…I’m not writing to please anybody…I’m writing because I have to.”

Tate’s Selected Poems won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize in poetry as well as the William Carlos Williams Award. Worshipful Company of Fletchers garnered him the National Book Award. Additional honors include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2001, he was elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

While Tate was a student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his debut collection, The Lost Pilot (1967), was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He was one of the youngest poets to be so honored.