Phillip Lopate Aram Saroyan - Essay

Aram Saroyan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Daily Round is dedicated to Pasternak, and the title poem to Mandelstem, and the book as a whole explores the malaise of the unattached urban American—the '60s survivor who has abandoned the assumptions and liberties of that decade and taken a stand in a solitary, sober "daily round" of job, apartment, friends, and lovers. Lopate is new to me, and I found real distinction in many of these poems, or more specifically in the poet's voice, which is both the instrument and the product of Lopate's concerns….

[The] exuberance of the '60s was a little wearing on us all—every extreme seems to exact its payment—and in Lopate's poems there is real evidence that the poet has found a viable alternative in accepting his own limits, as well as his own demands, for better or for worse. The self is the unit upon which it all rests, an accepting, humane, realistic self; the life in it need not be extravagant in display. It is on-going, a fact, and this is Lopate's real celebration, the life that he is simply given….

This is the self that Pasternak found to be sustaining in the years of Stalinism and after. Pasternak, in effect, abandoned modernism. His final poems, written around the crisis of his being awarded the Nobel prize, are of a simplicity and clarity that are literally transcendant. I admire the way Phillip Lopate has taken this lead, and I look forward to his future work. (p. 74)

Aram Saroyan, "Good-bye to the 1960s" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXII, No. 4, January 24, 1977, pp. 73-4.∗