From the James Tate Tribute

I had no intention to write a poem for Jim, mainly because it doesn’t seem like something he would want, but I saw the collage he made (“Behave Thyself”) and started thinking about how I used to see him all the time in Amherst, over the many years I lived there. How it never ceased to be amazing to run into him in town. This got me thinking about how, while he was writing his great books, I was living there too, working so hard, struggling through my own long time to even begin to write real poems. I was thinking about his indescribable little house full of books and objects, his desk. And how he would only on certain occasions, and reluctantly, describe what was for him clearly the very private experience of waiting, sometimes for hours, before the typewriter, in silence, until something came to him that he wanted to write down. I have heard him call it a texture, a phrase or even a word. He was an exemplar, completely dedicated to poetry, and even being near someone like that was a powerful and lucky lesson. Also, he was a truly loving person in his quiet sweet genuine way, and I will miss him for the rest of my life as a poet and a friend. —Matthew Zapruder


for Jim Tate

He used to love to walk around 

the little town checking up 

on nothing saying behave 

thyself to squirrels outside 

the bookstore then sitting 

an hour or so in the chair 

they called his when he 

wasn’t around 

I want to tell you 

something it took me a long 

time to write any poems 

I was always pretending 

I was talking to a tree

no echo in the wind

also he was a very private man

it was more like he

loved among 

some afternoons 

there was a sound 

like a record needle being 

picked up too quickly

we all said thunder 

where the baby goat was crying

in the hills its mother 

loved it very much 

but with distance 

one day from Ashfield 

it would be forever 

brought down into the valley 

to do great things 

like visit Jim

he gets up from reading 

Street of Crocodiles or young 

Slovenians to pet 

its head then goes 

back to waiting

for a name to arrive

Matthew Zapruder is the author most recently of Sun Bear (Copper Canyon, 2014). Why Poetry, a book of prose, is forthcoming from Ecco Press. An associate professor in the St. Mary's College of California MFA program and English Department, he is also Editor-at-Large at Wave Books. He lives in Oakland, CA.