Joan may be the most thankful senior in Senior Wisdom history.
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Joan Tate, CC ‘22, Poems, Roanoke, VA (not the lost colony) plus like four other places in my heart.
Claim to fame: Final Poet Laureate of the CUMB, House Poet for the Butler-Pikus estate, Hawaiian Shirt Chick, Dyke Poet Extraordinaire. I also wear a lot of green.
Where are you going? For the next three years I’ll be at UMass Amherst’s English MFA studying, teaching, working on a poetry manuscript, and remembering what it’s like to be in the woods. After that, who can say. Maybe a doctorate. Maybe a nunnery.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2026?
- Give more hugs. Eat whatever you want. Uplift peers. Talk to professors. Resist competition. Write a poem or two. It’ll help. We are all we have. Solidarity forever.
- Make friends outside Columbia. Columbia is not a full world and certainly not a vacuum. Find someone in the city or in the world who will show you some things you can’t see here. Show them some things they haven’t seen either. Cultivate openness wherever you can.
- Attention is the greatest gift you have to yourself, your peers, your work, and the world. Be judicious, intentional, and generous about where you put it.
“Back in my day…” $5 lamb over rice…
Favorite Columbia controversy? Whichever controversy overshadows the gentrification, union busting, white supremacy, elitism, and favoritism I guess.
What was your favorite class at Columbia? Can I put down two? I’ve got like eight I’ll shout from the rooftops. I’m going to put down two in no order
- History of Horror with Eleanor Johnson and Jeremy Dauber. Maybe the most fun I’ve ever had with a reading list and a set of lectures. I was lucky enough to witness its first iteration. The final paper is currently murdering me. I hope the course will make a regular comeback for the sake of this school’s soul.
- Provocations in 20th Century Poetics with Lynn Xu. This class intellectually jump-started me like nothing else in all the fields of my life that mattered. I’ll cherish Simone Weil and Frantz Fanon and Miguel Rodriguez and so many more from that semester until the day I die.
Or maybe Virginia Woolf with Edward Mendelson.
Or Poetic Meter and Form with Joe Fasano.
One of those probably.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Vegan = Cool
Whom would you like to thank?
The Grad Union for being awesome. Emily Holmes for hiring me, keeping me on after the covid gap, and always being flexible and kind. Ratrock for the interview and my brief time serving. Quarto, the Gadfly, and 4×4 for housing my work. The writers, poets, musicians, actors, directors, linguists, theorists, philosophers, artists, engineers, misfits, historians, sapphics, queers, armchair sophists and that one weird choreographer who have given me your time in workshop, class, lunch, parties, or walks along the water. My psychoanalyst for reasons that may or may not be apparent. Joe Fasano for helping me find my road. Alex for reading so much of my early tortured bullshit. Dottie for imparting me with magics at a time when I needed them abundantly. Timothy Donnelly for your generous feedback, your exuberance, your eagerness to speech. Lynn for your endless compassion, intellect, and intention. Dorla for keeping the creative writing department sane and warm. Kate Brassel for teaching us freshman year we had value outside our output. I don’t think I would’ve survived here otherwise. Charles McNamara for being a gem. Gareth Williams for the humor, wit, and genuine compassion you brought to class each day. Edward Mendelson for the delight of gushing with you about V.W. that strange spring. Jack Halberstam for telling me that I had something to say. Ari for being there whenever you could and even when you couldn’t. My Mother and Father for supporting me tirelessly and my siblings for putting up with the constant stream of book recs, political rants, and brooding. Mae for the endless supply of love, immaculate meals, and vent sessions around the reservoir. Meinzer for your kindred southern aquarius energy. Izzie for providing a voice to hold onto. Sarah and Leo for your warmth, your taste, and your home. Christiana for being so talented, brilliant, funny, incisive, horrific, genuine, growly, grumpy, brilliant, urbane, intellectual, brilliant, cool, rad, hilarious, and having the most princely Fenris this side of the Hudson. You’re my best friend. Thank you Fenris for being a benris. Gambel for the cuddles. Aspen, my Chelsea Girl, my ebullient fever-dream whirlwind star. Thank you for being there and loving me with wild abundance and endless compassion for
the world we’re in. Thank you Joan for coming around. Magistra Wilkins for spotting and encouraging my early joys. Magistra Tolosa for nudging me up North. Mr. Palmer for reading me Prufrock. It really all started there.
There are many more, but you get the gist and you know who you are and I passed gratuitous about 200 words ago. Thank you is too weak a blessing. I feel humbled every day by this delicate life I’ve found. Godspeed Godspeed.
One thing to do before graduating: Get on too much of something and scream the entirety of Ginsberg’s Howl from the sundial between 2 and 6 in the morning at least twice. Try to make it dif erent somethings each time Alternatively, go to Roosevelt Island in the early winter or late fall with a friend, date, or loved one and bring a thermos full of mulled wine. Wander around. Talk.
Any regrets? Sincerely believing for so long this institution had some inherent truth to offer me. I had all to offer myself.
Portrait via Joan