Professor and Poet Allen Tate Concludes Teaching Is Best Way For Writer to Earn A Living
English Professor and poet Allen Tate calls himself a "university bum."
This is his fourth consecutive summer teaching at the Harvard Summer School. He has also taught at Chicago, University of North Carolina, New York University, Princeton, and has taught regularly at the University of Minnesota since 1951.
"I teach because it's the best way for a writer to earn a living," he said.
His teaching career began at a small college in Memphis, Tennessee, where he stayed for two years before going to Princeton to direct the creative arts program.
"The teaching job happened by accident, and I had thought it would be boring," he said. "But I was surprised to find that I liked it."
His writing career began when he was still an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University.
"As a matter of fact, I had no trouble getting started," he said. "I had luck right from the beginning."
He wrote for a magazine, "The Fugitives," which ran for three years. Also working for it were John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson and William Yandell Elliott, Harvard Summer School director.
Last year Tate taught at Oxford and the university at Leeds. He also lectured in Greece and found the audiences as receptive as they could be, considering the little access they have to American books.
Tate's four summers at Harvard have been by invitation. "After a certain age one never applies," he laughed. He added he has "lots of friends" in Cambridge and Boston, spends weekends at the Cape and in Maine, and is going to Tennessee before returning to Minnesota in the fall.
This summer he is lecturing at the international humanities seminars and is also teaching an impressionist novel course.
The expected enrollment for the English course was 75 persons but it ran up to 180. Last year Tate's English class had the second highest enrollment in summer school.