Forgetting Allen Tate


Today Allen Tate is remembered—if at all—as a Southern Agrarian or New Critic. His name barely registers in discussions of “Catholic” writers. It was not always so. Tate’s 1950 conversion from atheism to Catholicism was so well celebrated that Marshall McLuhan would say that his was “the nearest American equivalent to Newman’s conversion.”Why do we hear so little of this American Newman? I started to wonder recently why do we not hear of his going to Mass with Ernest Hemingway in Paris, his pilgrimage to see T.S. Eliot in London, his correspondence with W.H. Auden? Why had I not heard of his time as poet-in-residence at Princeton where he spent countless hours discussing the Catholic faith with Jacques Maritain – who would eventually become his godfather? A friend who knows his work said to me, it is because he wrote the poem “Ode to the Confederate Dead,” and because we think he defended an old South that we are keen to expunge from our stained memory. Continue Reading »