poem index

About this poet

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 16, 1943, Philip Lopate received a bachelor's degree at Columbia University and a PhD at Union Graduate School.

His most recent book of poetry, At the End of the Day (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010) brings together the majority of his poems, most of which were written during the early years of his career as a writer. His other books of poetry include The Daily Round (Sun, 1976) and The Eyes Don't Always Want to Stay Open (Sun, 1972).

He is also the author of numerous essay collections, including: Portrait Inside My Head (Free Press, 2013); To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction (Free Press, 2013); Notes on Sontag (Princeton University Press, 2009); Getting Personal: Selected Writings (Basic Books, 2003); and Portrait of My Body (Anchor, 1996), which was a finalist for the PEN Spielvogel-Diamonston Award. He has also written the novels Two Marriages (Other Press, 2008) and The Rug Merchant (Penguin Books, 1987).

Of his work, the poet Marie Ponsot writes, “The pleasures of Lopate’s poems are urban and urbane. He takes notice, he reports, he has a heart. And more: he stirs in us literature’s ungovernable alchemic hope, as his truth-saying transforms his anecdotes, and precipitates poems.”

Among his many awards are grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Public Library, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Before holding the John Cranford Adams Chair at Hofstra University, Lopate taught at Fordham, the University of Houston, and New York University, and Bennington College. He currently lives in New York City, where he is the director of the nonfiction graduate program at Columbia University.




Selected Bibliography

Poetry

At the End of the Day (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010)
The Daily Round (Sun, 1976)
The Eyes Don't Always Want to Stay Open (Sun, 1972)

Prose

Portrait Inside My Head (Free Press, 2013)
To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction (Free Press, 2013)
Notes on Sontag (Princeton University Press, 2009)
Getting Personal: Selected Writings (Basic Books, 2003)
Portrait of My Body (Anchor Books, 1996)

Fiction

Two Marriages (Other Press, 2008)
Confessions of Summer (Doubleday, 1995)
The Rug Merchant (Penguin Books, 1988)
 

Indigestible

Phillip Lopate, 1943
A friend called up saying he was in a pre-suicidal mood.
I told him to come over.
I'd pay for the taxi.
"Will you go back with me to my apartment if I start to panic?"
I told him I would.
He arrived feeling chipper.
He wanted some wine.
I gave him a little cold sauterne that had been sitting
around in the icebox three weeks.
He said it tasted sour.

He looked at all my photographs.
He said he was feeling better.
We went out to dinner,
But it had to be on Madison Avenue.
For some reason he trusted Madison Avenue whereas Lexington, Third, Second and
     York were out to get him.
We sat in the last table far away from any draught.
I had my eyes on the delicatessen floor.
The radio was full of George Wallace being shot.
"Just like Huey Long," said my friend.
"Nixon did it
Now the gangsters are in the White House!"
I didn't argue.
My eyes were on my plate, Stuffed Derma and french fries.
Indigestible.
Suddenly he asked: "Are you feeling closer to me...?"

Of course I was,
I loved him.
But I used different words so as not to frighten him.
His head vibrated like a top whirling so fast you can't see it spin.

We paid the check and I told him as we were walking along Fifth Avenue, to catch the
     park and its rusty sunset, that I was also going through a bad time.
I had pinned my hopes on a shallow woman.
Though I no longer wanted her I felt curiously enervated.
Why this pain in my abdomen.
"Very simple," explained my friend.
"You experience an expansion, joy, the energy flows into all parts of the body.
Then a contraction, blocked, everything goes to the stomach.
You're still in high energy.
But there's no release.
The result is despair."
"That's it exactly!" I said to him.
It was getting darker and the first fat raindrops spattered onto the canopies.
The doormen were slipping inside, I was too excited to care.
"Answer me one more thing: expansion, contraction, physiology, I understand
     perfectly.
But what is it that stops us, when we're so near to joy?"

Only now did I notice my friend had his mad look.
His eyes, always beautiful, slid into passing cars.
He begged me to stop talking but I wouldn't.
I challenged him to explain the connections.
This nightfall, the orange chocolate smell, the dumpy couple walking by.
"Look at them," he said. "They're not going crazy.
Because they're healthy?
Or because they can't feel enough, because they don't know how to feel it."

Just then I felt it! Right through my body. "I feel it! I know what you mean! I feel it too!" I wanted him to know... "I don't think I'll wait for a bus," he said and jumped into a cab. His face wobbled against the wet glass.

The next day he was still alive. Still alive.

From At the End of the Day: Selected Poems and an Introductory Essay, copyright © 2009 by Phillip Lopate. Used by permission of Marsh Hawk Press.

Phillip Lopate

Phillip Lopate

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943, Philip Lopate received a Bachelor's

by this poet

poem
to Carol
1.

Our room, says the lady of the house
is nicer than one in a motel
                              and she's right
second-storey bay windows
a mushy double bed T.V.
and sportsman and gun magazines

2.

We'll take it
But not the meal plan.

3.

It
poem
we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
frustration
discontent and
torture
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your
poem
You are not me, and I am never you
except for thirty seconds in a year
when ecstasy of coming,
laughing at the same time
or being cruel to know for certain
what the other's feeling
charge some recognition.

Not often when we talk though.
Undressing to the daily logs
of this petty boss, that compliment,
curling