Pillbox

Phillip Lopate visits campus

Lopate answered questions and read excerpts from his work for students in Giant Eagle Auditorium. (credit: Jonathan Carreon | Photo Staff) Lopate answered questions and read excerpts from his work for students in Giant Eagle Auditorium. (credit: Jonathan Carreon | Photo Staff)

The Adamson Writers Series presented its second speaker of the year, Phillip Lopate, this past Wednesday in Giant Eagle Auditorium. The Adamson Writers Series is a free event put on by the English department that invites distinguished writers to come to Carnegie Mellon to read their works.

Hilary Masters, a published author and faculty member in the English department, introduced Lopate as a “man of letters who pursues truth when he sees it.” Lopate is an accomplished novelist, poet, biographer, and essayist. A Brooklyn native, he received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1964 and a doctorate from the Union Graduate School in 1979.

Lopate, who still retains a touch of his Brooklyn accent, read from a selection of his writings, intersplicing his own personal history during breaks in his reading. He explained that he began his writing career as a poet in the 1960s, drawing inspiration from Nicanor Parra’s Poems and Anti-Poems.

Lopate identified with the unsentimental and sardonic writing form used in the collection. He developed his own writing style based on Parra’s, penning honest, funny insights about day-to-day life.

Lopate eventually left poetry after falling in love with the personal essay, but kept his trademark unembellished style. He believes that the essay form is intrinsically rational and comes from the conscious mind more than poetry or prose does. As he said, on any given day, he’d “rather be sane than insane.” Lopate is most famous for his creative nonfiction. He loves the simplicity of being able to sit down and frankly write, “So here’s what happened.”

Lopate has been awarded a John Simon Guggeheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Center For Scholars and Writers Scholarship, two National Endowments for the Arts grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts grants. He currently teaches at Hofstra University. His latest book is At the End of the Day, a reprint of his earlier poetry.

The Adamson Series will continue with James Harms and Dzvinia Orlowsky on Thursday. For more information on the Adamson Writers Series visit www.cmu.edu/hss/english/events.