I wrote the poem below as a follow up exercise during one of my MFA semesters in 2005 when we read a collection of lyric poems by James Tate. I read the entire Return to the City of White Donkeys poetry collection and was challenged by the crazy imagined stories, plots and characters in the Tate collection. The Colors of a Vacation Sunset is not imagined, it happened. I got a statue of the Virgin de Guadalupe in the mail and the poem came from that experience.
Yesterday I got a virgin in the mail, delivered by Mr. Washington, our postman for the past 9 years. The Virgin Guadalupe came in a letter size envelope, she was taped to a card explaining who she was, where she was from, almost like if a foreign exchange student was coming to visit. Whoever put her in the envelope was in a hurry. She was taped to the intro card with wide clear tape, the kind they use at the UPS store, the kind of tape that killers use to asphyxiate their victims. There she was, shining Guadalupe, her formal tunic elegant, with the colors of a vacation sunset. Whoever sent her knew I needed a project, whoever sent her knew I needed an intimate grand gesture. It was this past Saturday morning that I rescued the virgin, I surgically removed all the tape, she is still with me. She is plastic, shiny, thin, made in China. She is quiet and still, guarding the world from a perch in the letter box I keep on the George Jetson coffee table. My two Corgi’s look at her wondering if she will stay long, I look at her and wonder if she is agreeable to stay forever.
By Elena Arosemena
Review for Jame's Tate's poetry collection published Nov 2004.
RETURN TO THE CITY OF WHITE DONKEYS
In his fourteenth collection of poetry, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner James Tate continues exploring his own peculiar brand of poetry, transforming our everyday world, a world where women give birth to wolves, wild babies are found in gardens, and Saint Nick visits on a hot July day. Tate's signature style draws on a marvelous variety of voices and characters, all of which sound vaguely familiar, but are each fantastically unique, brilliant, and eccentric.
Yet, as Charles Simic observed in the New York Review of Books, "With all his reliance on chance, Tate has a serious purpose. He's searching for a new way to write a lyric poem." He continues, "To write a poem out of nothing at all is Tate's genius. For him, the poem is something one did not know was there until it was written down. . . . Just about anything can happen next in this kind of poetry and that is its attraction. . . . Tate is not worried about leaving us a little dazed. . . . He succeeds in ways for which there are a few precedents. He makes me think that anti-poetry is the best friend poetry ever had."