Endpoint and Other Poems

Endpoint and Other Poems

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by John Updike

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A stunning collection of poems that John Updike wrote during the last seven years of his life and put together only weeks before he died for this, his final book.

The opening sequence, “Endpoint,” is made up of a series of connected poems written on the occasions of his recent birthdays and culminates in his confrontation with his final


A stunning collection of poems that John Updike wrote during the last seven years of his life and put together only weeks before he died for this, his final book.

The opening sequence, “Endpoint,” is made up of a series of connected poems written on the occasions of his recent birthdays and culminates in his confrontation with his final illness. He looks back on the boy that he was, on the family, the small town, the people, and the circumstances that fed his love of writing, and he finds endless delight and solace in “turning the oddities of life into words.”

“Other Poems” range from the fanciful (what would it be like to be a stolen Rembrandt painting? he muses) to the celebratory, capturing the flux of life. A section of sonnets follows, some inspired by travels to distant lands, others celebrating the idiosyncrasies of nature in his own backyard.

For John Updike, the writing of poetry was always a special joy, and this final collection is an eloquent and moving testament to the life of this extraordinary writer.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Clive James
Clearly [Updike] had poetic qualities as a writer: he had the imagery, the observation, the rhythm, the delight in making words click into their ideal working order. But it was into his novels that he put these things, was it not? Nobody, and especially not other poets, wanted to think of him as a poet as well. Helpfully, he appeared to think the same. But this posthumous volume, Endpoint: And Other Poems, tells a different story. Consisting entirely of poems he wrote in the last years of his life, it is a serious book indeed.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michael Dirda
Updike's many serious poems are so frankly personal, full of wistfulness and wonder, and unafraid of being sentimental…In their last years, many artists cast aside all their usual flourishes, dismiss the circus animals and simply set down, as directly as possible, the realities and inevitabilities of old age. So John Updike has done in this moving book of poems.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Updike writes in these…poems with the quiet assurance of someone in complete control of his craft.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Many delights but very few surprises await Updike's admirers in this last book of poems from the prolific essayist and novelist, completed only weeks before his death. Much of it gathers calm, casual, loosely rhymed sonnets, first in autobiographical sequences, describing the first and the last years of the poet's life: "Age I must, but die I would rather not... Be with me, words, a little longer." These sequences sketch Arizona and New England; single sonnets, placed later in the collection, offer impressions of Russia, India, the Irish seashore ("like loads of eternal laundry,/ onrolling breaks cresting into foam") and of nearer phenomena, such as the noise made by men fixing Updike's house. Quiet poems pay tribute to golf and golfers, to Eros in old age and to "America, where beneath/ the good cheer and sly jazz the chance/ of failure is everybody's right,/ beginning with baseball." Elegant samples of Updike's celebrated light verse are also in evidence. Mostly, though, these are serious, quiet, low-pressure, frequently elegiac poems, concerned with later life-"old doo-wop stars," for example, "gray hairdos still conked,/ their up-from-the-choir baby faces lined/ with wrinkles now." (Apr.)

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

Half Moon, Small Cloud

Caught out in daylight, a rabbit's transparent pallor, the moon is paired with a cloud of equal weight:
the heavenly congruence startles.

For what is the moon, that it haunts us,
this impudent companion immigrated from the system's less fortunate margins,
the realm of dust collected in orbs?

We grow up as children with it, a nursemaid of a bonneted sort, round-faced and kind,
not burning too close like parents, or too far to spare even a glance, like movie stars.

No star but in the zodiac of stars,
a stranger there, too big, it begs for love
(the man in it) and yet is diaphanous,
its thereness as mysterious as ours.

Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle

The celebrated windows flamed with light directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place. Then violins vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed until our beating hearts, our violins were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.

Country Music
February 1999
Oh Monica, you Monica
In your little black beret,
You beguiled our saintly Billy
And led that creep astray.

He'd never seen thong underpants
Or met a Valley girl;
He was used to Southern women,
Like good old Minnie Pearl.

You vamped him with your lingo,
Your notes in purple ink,
And fed him Vox and bagels
Until he couldn't think.

You were our Bill's Delilah
Until Acquittal Day;
You're his-tor-y now, Monica,
In your little black beret.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. He was the father of four children and the author of more than sixty books, including novels and collections of short stories, poems, and criticism. His books won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Howells Medal, among other honors. He died in January 2009.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 18, 1932
Date of Death:
January 27, 2009
Place of Birth:
Shillington, Pennsylvania
Place of Death:
Beverly Farms, MA
A.B. in English, Harvard University, 1954; also studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England

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Endpoint and Other Poems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
unclelou More than 1 year ago
Who am I to "review" John Updike's work? What I can say is, these are the viewpoints of a very sensitive man. Like his other works, these are a definite observation that is worth reading. These writings come as his body, but not his mind, is slowing down. Yet they are lively & not morbid or gloomy. I can recognize my Grandfather's habits, or my Dad's way of looking at ordinary things, like his broken computer. I could identify with his remarks about the life that is passing him by - just a little. There was some looking back & some looking ahead, but mostly he's looking around & showing that he's still alive. Maybe that makes it easier to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This last book of John Updike lets the reader go back to Updike's early beginnings. We see a great novelist asa brilliant poet. Writer of archetypes, American protestant questions of life, sex, and death. Most of all the Updike of Pennsylvania and a tribute to his own childhood, his early fiction and to friendship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago