Allen Tate

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Allen Tate was a well-known American poet laureate from Winchester, who began his career in music before shifting his focus to literature. He joined literary organizations such as the ‘Fugitives’ and the ‘Southern Agrarians alongside his friend and fellow poet Robert Warren. This poet was not linked with any publication at the outset, and his contributions to journals and periodicals were purely on a freelance basis. The American poet began publishing his writings soon after meeting British poet T.S. Eliot in London, whom he idolized. Literary commentators praised his debut collection of poems, ‘Mr. Pope and Other Poems,’ which included one of his best works, ‘Ode to the Confederate Dead.’ Following the success of his first works, he continued to write poems and articles, many of which discussed his religious and anti-fascist political views. He worked for a short time for ‘The American Review,’ a popular American magazine that covered political and literary topics. He helped give ‘The Sewanee Review’ journal a new design and feel, in addition to writing on a regular basis. He also served as a poet-in-residence at ‘Princeton University,’ and then taught English Literature at the ‘University of Minnesota,’ in Minneapolis.

Childhood and Adolescence

Orley, John Allen Tate was born on November 19, 1899, in Winchester, Kentucky, to entrepreneur John Orley and his wife Eleanor Parke Custis Varnell.
The young kid studied violin at the ‘Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio between 1916 and 1917. He enrolled in ‘Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, the following year, when he met poet Robert Penn Warren.

Both aspiring poets became involved with the ‘Fugitives,’ a literary group founded by American poet John Crowe Ransom. The group was made up of young poets who wanted to write poetry that focused on meter and rhyme rather than feelings.

Allen Tate’s Career

Tate, followed by his mentor John Crowe Ransom, began teaching at Ohio’s ‘Kenyon College.’ Allen’s formal Modern poetry had a significant influence on his student, the well-known American poet Robert Lowell.

In 1924, Allen visited New York City and met fellow American poet Hart Crane, with whom he had previously corresponded. Tate freelanced for the next few years, publishing his work in well-known journals and magazines such as ‘The Nation,’ ‘Poetry,’ and ‘Hound & Horn.’ In the meantime, he worked as a janitor to make ends meet.
In 1928, the poet traveled to Europe with his companions and met T.S. Eliot, a well-known English poet whom he admired.

Mr. Pope and Other Poems, the former’s first collection of poems, was published the same year. ‘Ode to the Confederate Dead,’ a poem that rocketed the poet to stardom, was included in the collection. ‘Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier,’ a biography, was also released at the time.

“Religion is the only tool for the validation of values,” he stated in an essay titled “The Fallacy of Humanism” in 1929, in which he criticized established religious systems, claiming “Religion is the only technique for the validation of values.” He also released a biography titled ‘Jefferson Davis: His Rise and Fall’ about the same period.

In 1930, the prolific poet returned to the United States from Europe and reestablished his involvement with the literary group ‘Fugitives.’ Some of the association’s members joined the conservative political group known as the “Southern Agrarians.”

The group’s twelve writers cooperated on a book of essays titled “I’ll Take My Stand,” in which they discussed their political ideologies. The essay ‘Remarks on the Southern Religion’ by Tate was included in the book.
During this period, the bright poet was appointed associate editor of ‘The American Review,’ a political-literary magazine edited by Seward Collins. The former picked the magazine as a vehicle for publicizing the ‘Southern Agrarians’ group’s literary activities.

Tate wrote an essay for the liberal magazine ‘The New Republic’ in 1936, criticizing fascism as practiced by Italian ruler Mussolini and German dictator Hitler.

The following year, in 1937, the poet published ‘Selected Poems,’ a collection of all of his earlier poems. ‘Last Days of Alice,’ ‘Mother and Son,’ and ‘Aeneas at Washington’ were among the works included in the collection.

In 1938, the ‘Southern Agrarians’ released ‘Who Owns America?’ as a rebuttal to the ‘New Deal,’ which featured reforms enacted under the presidency of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tate’s first and last novel, ‘The Fathers,’ was released the same year, and it depicted his maternal family from Fairfax County, Virginia.

Tate stayed on the campus of ‘Princeton University’ in the early 1940s after being invited to be its poet-in-residence. He started the ‘Creative Writing’ department at the institute and educated prominent writers including John Berryman and Richard Blackmur.
In 1942, the poet teamed up with novelist Andrew Lytle to transform the oldest American journal, ‘The Sewanee Review,’ into one of the country’s most prestigious journals.

In 1951, he began teaching English at the ‘University of Minnesota,’ where he remained until his retirement. He wrote various poems and essays during this time, including ‘The Swimmers and Other Selected Poems’ and ‘Memoirs and Opinions.’

Allen’s Major Projects

The poem ‘Ode to the Confederate Dead’ by this outstanding American poet is regarded as one of his best works. With its setting in a graveyard, the poem is inspired by British poet T.S. Eliot’s literary style, and it laments the death of Confederate troops who have been cremated there. The poet’s own state of mind and beliefs about death are reflected in the scene and people.

Achievements & Awards

In 1943, Allen was appointed ‘Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress,’ or ‘United States Poet Laureate.’

Personal History and Legacy

This great poet fell in love with Caroline Ferguson Gordon, a well-known American novelist, in the early 1920s. Before relocating to New York, they lived in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.
The two authors married in New York in May 1925 and had a daughter, Nancy, three years later.

Even though they had been friends all their lives, they divorced after twenty years of marriage, remarried a year later, and then divorced again, citing irreconcilable differences.

In 1950, the poet converted to Catholicism, and in the same year, he married American poet Isabella Gardner.
Tate divorced Gardner in 1966 and married Helen Heinz, a former nun whom he taught at the ‘University of Minnesota.’ A year later, the couple welcomed twins into the world, but the younger one died in infancy. Helen gave birth to a second son three years later.

The American poet died on February 9, 1979, in Nashville, Tennessee, United States.
The ‘Firestone Library at Princeton University houses the author’s original literary works.

Estimated Net worth

Allen Tate is one of the wealthiest poets and one of the most well-known. Allen Tate’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


The poem Ode to the Confederate Dead by this well-known American poet is frequently confused with Henry Timrod’s ‘Ode to the Confederate Dead in Magnolia Cemetery.’