Celebrating the poems of a late great: Unnameable Books in Turners Falls hosting reading of a new collection of James Tate’s poetry, Sunday 3 to 5:30 p.m.

James Tate's

James Tate's "Hell, I Love Everybody." STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Unnameable Books on Avenue A in Turners Falls.

Unnameable Books on Avenue A in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Unnameable Books on Avenue A in Turners Falls.

Unnameable Books on Avenue A in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA


Staff Writer

Published: 11-13-2023 12:37 PM

The late Pioneer Valley poet James Tate, whose work earned him a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, will be present in spirit for this week’s reading session at Unnameable Books in Turners Falls.

The event, part of a reading series held weekly at the newly-opened bookstore, will take place on Sunday, Nov. 12, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. It will primarily spotlight a new book, “Hell, I Love Everybody,” which is a collection of 52 of Tate’s poems that Publisher’s Weekly called “quintessential” and “a whimsical, rollicking, and utterly jarring retrospective that showcases an unparalleled mind.” The reading will also be a celebration of Tate’s poetry more broadly, and anyone who would like to attend is welcome to bring with them a Tate poem of their choice to read.

According to the Poetry Foundation, Tate was the author of more than 20 poetry collections that “have been described as tragic, comic, absurdist, ironic, hopeful, haunting, lonely and surreal.”

“There is nothing better than [to move the reader deeply],” Tate said in a Paris Review interview cited by the Poetry Foundation. “I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best. If you laughed earlier in the poem, and I bring you close to tears in the end, that’s the best.”

Publisher’s Weekly praised “Hell, I Love Everybody” for how its poems “invite the reader into a transcendent world” in an eclectic fashion. Collectively, they are “tenacious, surreal, impish and soul-mending,” the publication describes.

“Tate is famed for narratives set in the familiar and develop imaginatively, even chaotically: in one poem, strangers invite a jazz musician to a lavish party, only to reveal that he is their annual human sacrifice due to his lack of contribution to society,” the Publisher’s Weekly summary reads. “In another, an applicant interviewing to be an ice cream truck driver is told that extensive military experience is required.”

“Tate’s poems induce imaginative fortitude,” poet Terrance Hayes wrote in the foreword for “Hell, I Love Everybody.”

“Events can happen in a mind, a mine, or a minefield, ideally when the temperate outdoors and indoors are the same.”

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Dara Barrois/Dixon, an editor of Tate’s book, said poetry “guided his life” as he spent it “in Pelham, with early interludes in Deerfield and Amherst.” The area, she said, married well with Tate’s productivity as a poet.

“A relatively quiet life in western Massachusetts appealed to his work ethic,” Barrois/Dixon recalled in an email. “He made his living leading workshops and seminars for poets studying poetry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, many of whom have put down roots here in the Valley. When he won a Pulitzer Prize or a National Book Award and other such markers of renown, people liked it. It's a hopeful kind of thing when poetry, that most private and mysterious art, is held up for celebration.”

Unnameable Books is located inside the former Hubie’s Tavern building at at 66 Avenue A.

“Our hope’s that people find themselves enjoying themselves, mixed in with the kind of mind-freeing, imagination-fueling, human nature-revealing heart, soul and brain-loving things poetry does,” Barrois/Dixon said. “And maybe walk away feeling good.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.