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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)
 

Snowball Journal

Phillip Lopate, 1943
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 turns out she is an alcoholic

4.

Those circular curtain rods
are a nice personal touch
she must have put a lot of work
                              into this house...
we settle down to make love
on a chair
the dependable thrill of foreign rooms, positions
                              violating good people's rugs

5.

I stroke your legs and breasts as you straddle me

6.

We bring out the Polaroid
take pictures of our bodies relaxed
Just lean against the radiator, your back to the sun
a smile of bones dissolving
          I squeeze the knob until it says YES

7.

But you always manage
to take three more pictures of me
than I do of you

8.

We must take a stroll in the woods before the sun goes down
you slip out while I am reading
          and drive to the country store
          bringing back Vermont cheese,
          bread for sandwiches, Utica beer
          and Tasty Cups
          For this I love you

you even get undressed again
so we can both snack in bed
with the crumbs falling between us

9.

We'll never see Vermont this way
up and dressed for our 5 o'clock walk—
the hills above us make us laugh
they're all so pretty!
          and we don't laugh that easily

                    with my arm around your waist
                    it seems child's play to live with you
                    breathe in the electric air
                    what has happened to all our demands
                    don't even think about them
                              if you kiss my left ear lobe
                              and lick the other one
                              I'll be as happy as

10.

The sun is dying on the sharp points of the tree-tops
not just disappearing
soon we'll have to go back to the car, it's
getting cold

11.

I can't resist—I surprise you with a snowball
                    The snow dribbles onto your
                              bare breasts
now you have ‘snowy breasts'

12.

Dinner is delicious! We compliment each other
for walking out of that expensive Auberge down the road
and saying no to The Reluctant Panther
This one is moderate but certainly as good as the others!
We listen with delight as people in the next room
                    are being turned away

          Thank goodness we made our reservations just in time!

‘Try the banana-loaf bread'
     ‘I can't believe these lamb chops!'
          greasing our teeth and fingers into the bone

Families of skiers clomp into the dining room
study menus, talking about the slopes
Most have fat asses and need the exercise
But they are ordering everything! lobster with roast beef
          and pie
What could be more fun than eating! they cry
a hearty meal after a long day outdoors
is justice.

          Mother and daughter look-alikes
          That girl could be pretty if she lost fifteen pounds
          Now you know what she'll be like at forty.

13.

At night you fall asleep
and I stay up to read
                    nothing on television

14.

The next day—clouds, a little somber
we wake up leisurely
and dawdle over breakfast in the trucker's diner
          you seem apprehensive
while I play record after record on the jukebox
that morning you came into our room
I was stretched across the double-bed
"Guess what?" you announced—beaming, dramatic—
"I started my period."

          Now you're having second thoughts about it?

          Very well, an honest discussion
                    let's take stock of our lives
                    by all means, say
                    what's on your mind...
                    this too is part of vacations

15.

We have found a woods that is really private
Fresh-cut lumber, a carrot smell—
on the ground wood shavings, snow, pine cones
          and animal tracks (deer hooves)
I want to go where it's completely hooded
away from the trail
live like an animal between the spaces of trees

          you are afraid that the ice will crack
          you would go, you say, if you had better boots

                    a difference of opinion

We sit cautiously on a pile of snow
What, are you shivering?
like a maniac I reach into your pants
                    with chilling fingers
so that you will be warmer
                    and you shudder
                    at the cheap power I have over you
                    to make you sigh

16.

The good mood regained

17.

Looking at the Green Mountains from a roadside promontory
Peru, Vermont—
          The Woman Thinks:

          This is a place to raise children
          live correctly
          come to peace with myself

          The Man Thinks:

          perfect landscape
          of mountains, firs and snow
          I toss a snowball into the purest fields
          to see if this is a beauty that mars easily
          or deserves my worship

18. Coda

When we were standing before the mountains
the sun leaking pools on the snowy fields
the hard quiet of the barn and the owner's house
the watchdog's bark
sky so intense we could only look through a crack in our lids
and yet everything was blue—

how little I've been able to take with me
back one week in the city

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.

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
"BE YOUR OWN MASTER!" says the Vedanta Society sign. 
Why not?…In the park
Some clouds roll over me like Greenland on a map. 
If I wanted to I could imagine I was flying over
The Greenland coast and gazing down at the white fjords. 
Instead I'm lying on the grass, listening to city sounds. 
They come to me in
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
poem
In 200 years they won't remember me, Salvador
And they won't remember you, so let's skip the part about
He will live with us forever.
You may get a footnote for being the only Marxist
To gain power in Latin America via parliamentary means;
And the only sucker not to throw his enemies in jail.
You knew the power