The New Chinese Fiction

By James Tate 1943–2015 James Tate
Although the depiction of living forms
was not explicitly forbidden, the only good news
about famines was that the station was empty.
It was about 2 A.M. The truck drove away.
A tropical insect that lives in enormous cities
stroked my hair awkwardly, organizing everyone's
schedule. She drove me back to my hotel
in a misty and allusive style, while the old
schools continued the process of devolution.
Part of the roof was loose and flapped noisily
in the wind, who needed work like that?
Poor brethren, do you have any good prose yet?
The New Chinese fiction is getting better,
I suspect, people walking and thinking and fussing,
with a nest to fly out of, with a less intimate footing.
Are we responsible for their playtimes?
Keep up your music, my dears; there were a lot of people
like that, with strange eyes, green fields and orchards.
The little house they sat in produced simple people,
cars full of blood, all they needed was a hat,
extramusical sounds, purging the emotions.
Expect no mercy, I said, from the sickbay.
And try to imagine Howard Hughes piloting the plane
that flew Cary Grant and Barbara Hutton off
toward their marriage in 1950. Well, don't bother.
The New Chinese fiction shouldn't concern itself
with anything other than a stolen turnip
and a coldness in the heart, and a lit window,
a young man on a horse appearing and then disappearing.

James Tate, "The New Chinese Fiction" from Worshipful Company of Fletchers. Copyright © 1994 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc,

Source: Worshipful Company of Fletchers (The Ecco Press, 1994)

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Poet James Tate 1943–2015

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

 James  Tate


James Tate was born in 1943 in Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a BA from Kansas State College and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He was the author of over 20 poetry collections, including The Ghost Soldiers (2008); Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994), which won the National Book Award; Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Constant . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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