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Return to the City of White Donkeys: Poems Paperback – November 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tate's influence on younger American poets (both as writer and mentor) stands near its apex, but this 14th book of his own poems presents the genial master at less than his best. Tate won the Yale Younger Poets prize for his strong, sad, lyrical debut, The Lost Pilot, but earned fame in the 1970s and '80s for bitter humor and homey pomo pastiche, set in a prosey free verse where the linebreaks can seem as arbitrary as the situations in which his speaker finds himself. The poems reflect jaded amusement, hope and occasional despair as the poet makes his way through a dangerous world, "contemplating the/ life of the postmodern buffalo" or "the public aspect of breast exposure," pursuing the resurrection of Eleanor Roosevelt, "holding this really exemplary radish," or watching "masked men with titanium pincers slide/ silently through the blackened halls." With few formal challenges, but with plenty of jokes, the poems can recall the comedian Steven Wright, or the pages McSweeney's. If their sheer quantity can make them seem formulaic, Tate's twisted scenarios provoke and amuse as much as they ever did; though they may tire longtime followers, these poems could find new admirers among people who don't often read poets at all.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Tate has authored 13 poetry books and received numerous recognitions and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In his new collection he presents prose poems with enticing subject matter stretching from reincarnation to Emily Dickinson to deciphering bird-speak. Taking a disarmingly comicstance, Tate masters a narrative prose poem form that is all his own and that will appeal to a wide range of readers. The majority of his poems are downright brilliant in their wit and subtle commentary. Tate presents ingenious scenarios, like watching an angel on the street playing a harp, with the minimalist expertise of a great short-short story writer. Though united in form and voice, the poems are unique on their own and, together, read like humorously philosophical tales. But these are serious poems beneath their comedy. Just beware, with more than 100 poems in the book, these are best consumed like rich chocolate: in small doses. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060750022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060750022
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mikaela Jorgensen on April 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is amazing. It's humorous, unique, and really makes you think. It seems like a new kind of poem. They are almost like short stories. I also want to say this book is bizarre, but in a very good way. Love it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ben J Korgen on October 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think James Tate's sense of humor is wonderful! I am flagrantly biased in saying this because my sense of humor is much like his! I realize that many definitions of poetry exist in the world. That means that some people would indeed call Tate's efforts poetry. I just don't see it that way. I believe that his great sense of humor is partially wasted in writing in a style that would fit well in a junior high textbook. In addition, the ratio of excellent "poems" to filler in this edition is lower than I would expect coming from a man as funny as he is. Ho hum. I wish he would do something different, like concentrate on stand-up comedy. He has the perfect speaking voice for that.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Herein you will find a collection of witty, strange, offbeat, bizarre stories in poem form. The surreal sounds reasonable, and laughter will be common. Tate's works will make you laugh, think, and question this so called "Reality."
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By Caitlin Closser on October 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These poems are so silly and clever in the most absurdist way. As little vignettes of disconnected characters, they are a stunning collection. I love this book so much.
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By Don Cooper on November 25, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not as good as others, especially Memoirs of the Hawk, by James Tate. Quick response from seller. Will use same seller again.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. D. Varn on July 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
James Tate's style consisted of practiced, easy idiosyncrasies that read akin to the narrative of a dream. His stream of conscious style paired with light wit is unique, although it does invoke poets like Kenneth Koch. To some, this may be like eating kimchi, to those who have no cultivated a taste for these particularly humorous bits of surrealism, it may go down like spiced, half-rotted cabbage. For those who have developed a taste for Tate's particular vision, it would be something one could eat with every meal. Although that metaphor can have one miss Tate's prime talent, the ability to build a tension that releases in humor or a subtly bitter sweet crescendo.

This book has the feel, though, that Tate has perhaps turned his process into a nearly mechanical procedure, as Randall Jarrel said about late Auden in an entirely different context, though Tate's long lines and prosaic turns, while not quite exactly prose, may be best seen in his earlier works. This book is still not one to skip despite the fact fans of Tate may have seen it before and partisans of Tate may be coming to it with the taste of consistency that a good and unique craftsman can render, but one that sells his earlier brilliance a little short.
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