A Family Place

A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family

Viking 2001, Penguin 2002

Encompassing three centuries of manor lords and tenant farmers, Civil War heroes and renegade aunts, award-winning author Leila Philip tells the story of her ancestral Hudson Valley home, Talavera, and the mystery of her attachment to it. After her father’s death in 1992, Leila and her family struggled to find the means to keep their farm intact. This uphill battle led her to examine the forces that compel a family to sacrifice almost everything to hold onto a particular piece of land.


“… an unpretentious, subtly shaded story of the importance of understanding the ghosts and heroes that reside in every ancestral home.”
–New York Times
“An exquisite rendering of a Hudson Valley family farm, as detailed and colored as a Persian miniature. Philip’s family history is alarmingly transporting, and her sense of place so rich you can taste it.”
–Kirkus (starred review)

“Mesmerizing…Both narrative threads are profoundly personal. Braided together with insight, they pay homage to the ideals of home and family with a resonance that should extend beyond her home region.”
–Publisher’s Weekly
“Philip grafts history, natural history, and autobiography into a stunning performance.”
–Marueen Howard, author of Big as Life


Winner of the Victorian Society Book Award
Winner of the Documentation of American Life Award


The Road Through Miyama

Random House 1989, Vintage 1991, 1992

In 1983 Leila Philip made her way to southernmost Japan in search of a potter who would take on a foreign apprentice. In Miyama–a village settled almost four centuries ago by seventy Korean potters–she was accepted as an apprentice into the workshop and home of master potter Kazy Nagayoshi and his wife, Reiko.
As she tells us of her progress in the poetry workshop, Philip gives us an insightful guide to an exacting craft, a deeply personal portrait of the village, and a beautifully perceptive look at the cultural roots of modern Japan. With good humor and vivid detail, she tells of days spent planting and harvesting rice in the paddies. And with grace and respect, she introduces us to the people of Miyama–to the feisty old farming woman, to the artisans from neighboring studios, and, most especially, to Nagayoshi and Reiko.

“A charming mix, and an unusal look at pottery lore and technique, and at a modern aspirations and traditional attitudes in Japanese life.”
“In this enchanting book, Philip recounts her trip with sensitivity and clarity. The reader will learn much about potting, but also about Japanese history, social mores, rural life, modern youth, religion and much else.”
–Library Journal


Winner of the PEN 1990 Martha Albrand Citation for Nonfiction


Hidden Dialogue: A Discussion Between Women in Japan and the United States

U.S. Japan Program Series, New York Japan Society, 1992

Examines the evolving roles of women in Japan and the implications for Japanese society.


Writing Down the River

Writing Down The River: Into the heart of the Grand Canyon

Northland Publishing, 1997

In the summer of 1997, 15 of America’s best women writers, Denise Chavez, Linda Ellerbee, Judith Freeman, Linda Hogan, Teresa Jordan, Ruth Kirk, Page Lambert, Brenda Peterson, Leila Philip, Sharman Apt Russell, Annick Smith, Barbara Earl Thomas, Evelyn C. White, Ann Haymond Zwinger, and Susan Zwingertook, took separate float trips down the Grand Canyon. These authors include journalists, novelists, and naturalists, some with previous outdoor experience and some with none. This book presents their excellent essays on their experiences.

Winner of the Willa Cather Literary Award for Memoir and Essay

Why We're Here

Why We’re Here

Colgate University Press, 2010

The geography of upstate New York (defined here as practically everything except Long Island and the city’s five boroughs) is famously various–the last ice age left the region wonderfully mountainous but also carved a Great Lake and several major rivers. Writers in this anthology reveal an interior landscape every bit as diverse, stretching contemporary literature’s most flexible form so that these essays seem to hold everything–laundromats and bowling alleys, organic and family farms, Amish-built shacks and backyard ice rinks and the Erie Canal. Yet these essayists always also speak from a region close to the heart, and the result is a rich chorus, a loving portrait of the place these writers call home.

Water Rising

Water Rising

New Rivers Press, 2015

Water Rising is a collaboration between Leila Philip and Garth Evans. Philip’s realist poems – about nature, beauty, love and loss – are presented alongside Evans’s abstract, deeply hued, layered watercolors. The words and the image interact to create a moving meditation on the power of art to express and explore our deepest human emotions and our connections to place.
Water Rising celebrates a sense of place. 100% of net proceeds from book sales will be donated to support environmental stewardship. See for more details.

“Water Rising is a marvelous collaboration between an artist and a writer, in which lines and colors and words blend and merge to celebrate a small corner of the world. Garth Evans and Leila Philip teach us how to see a place anew, “as if a secret were breaking open.” And now that we know the secret, which is that every place demands love and attention, nothing will ever be the same again.”
–Christopher Merrill,Director Int’l Writing Center, Univ Iowa
“The silent sound that Leila Philip’s poems make on the page is reciprocated by the beautiful articulations of color and form that are Garth Evans’ watercolors. Things happen, the poems and paintings both tell us. How and why are mysteries and should remain so, but the happenstance of the art forms, acknowledges a persuasive, crucial gravity — open-minded souls at their careful work.”
–—Baron Wormser, Poet Laureate of Maine 2000- 2006
“In Water Rising, an intimate collaboration between Leila Philip and Garth Evans, poet and artist, a way of “speaking and singing” rises out of the trust each has placed in the other’s mastery of their medium. This shared faith elaborates in subtle ways the brilliant and distinctive gifts—one descriptive, the other abstract—of their aesthetic temperaments. The result is a stunning and surprising marriage of true minds.”
–Michael Collier, author of The Ledge
“Water Rising is a book whose exquisite individual voices—its poems and watercolors—harmonize like wild singers in a healthy natural landscape. These threads of color and song weave a pattern of music the likes of which has not quite been heard before, a music simultaneously wild and domesticated, cooked and raw, improvisational and carefully notated, a music to be seen as well as simply heard. Although they worked separately, these two singular artists, deeply connected as human beings, have achieved a true collaboration here: this book is larger than the sum of its parts, deeper than the visions of its individual artists. This is collaboration as the best kind of marriage is collaboration: something beyond either life is made real here, made manifest. The book itself is a work of art, not a mere collection of artifacts. As such, it is truly a small miracle, a refuge for contemplation, the real world shown as magic, full of wonder and delight, and precious beyond our mere knowing.”
— Michael Hettich, Systems of Vanishing
“In this exquisite collection, Water Rising, the sublime watercolors of Garth Evans and the lyrical meditations of Leila Philip reflect those tides that rise and course within our lives and through the natural world, in both cases tracing the indelible watermarks that have been left behind. Whether grounded in our intimate daily experience or our artistic hopes and desires, the paintings and poems of Water Rising celebrate our insistence that, in the face of much darkness, we will continue to live along the shores of light and great beauty.”
— David St. John, Study for the World’s Body
“The paintings and poems of Garth Evans and Leila Philip “in-form” us, in the deepest sense, of what it is to live alongside, in relationship with, the structures and lives around us. In Water Rising, the ancient argument over which is superior—painting or poetry—is quieted at last. For here, whether taking form in image or in words, the zucchini rise like “zeppelins”: “the surprising weight/ of them lifting/ my basket.””
— Angie Estes, winner of the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
“In their gorgeous creation, Water Rising, Leila Philip and Garth Evans present a way of working, a method of living, and an artist’s model of how to shape-shift between intimacy and independence. I’m struck by the black and white power of the words (buildings and dwellings unto themselves) and the tender viscera of the paintings’ extraordinary color and movement. And, too, how the poems lend shape to beloved terrain, while the paintings enact poetic knowing.  Both forms move deftly between their own inner and outer dimensions and together maintain a sustained and passionately engaged conversation.”
— Lia Purpura, On Looking
“Leila Philip’s poems are intricately accurate about the look and sound of natural things, the grand sweep of the seasons, and the elusively textured emotions that unite two people in a single enterprise. She is a particularly subtle kind of realist. Garth Evans, a non-figurative sculptor, is seen here as a watercolorist transposing the grand forms of his three-dimensional work to the flatness of paper. Her representations and his abstractions do not, at first glance, seem to have much to do with one another. With attentive reading and looking, however, we begin to perceive in his imagery intimations of specific things–qualities of light, shifting structures of space–and, in hers, openings onto vast, unnamable matters of hope and the flow of time. Each is as much an abstractionist or a realist as the other, and Water Rising joins their work in a magnificent unity.”
— Carter Ratcliff