An American poet born in 1943, Tate has published 13 books of poetry and won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize (in 1992 for his Selected Poems), the National Book Award (in 1994 for Wosrhipful Company of Fletchers), and the Wallace Stevens Award (in 1995). He cites Russell Edson as a significant influence and, like Edson, he is often described as a surrealist or absurdist. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and while the majority of his published work is free verse, he recently seems to be writing mostly prose poetry.
Tate edited The Best American Poetry 1997 (Scribner Poetry, 1997), and in the introduction he makes this statement (among many others) about poetry:
What we want from poetry is to be moved, to be moved from where we now stand. We don't just want to have our ideas or emotions confirmed. Or if we do, then we turn to lesser poems, poems that tell you killing children is bad, chopping down the rainforest is bad, dying is sad. A good poet would agree with all of those sentiments, but would also strive for an understanding beyond those givens.
Little Poem with Argyle Socks is an example of Tate's work.