Philip Levine – An American Poet Laureate Passes…

Philip Levine

Philip Levine –  (January 10, 1928 – February 14, 2015)

Poet of America’s Middle Class….


When I created Finding Out! I envisioned it as kinda’ my Trivia Crack.Spin the wheel, or surf the Internet and explore things that fall into the main categories of Trivial Pursuit, the arts, science, sports, history, entertainment, and geography all things that I love, Finding Out about!

Today the wheel within my ADD addled brain spun and landed on the Arts….I have mentioned before when discussing Rod McKuen Baudelaire, that I am not a big fan of poetry, which is why I didn’t know who Philip Levine was when I saw his name among Wikipedia’s list of those who have recently passed away

Philip Levine was not only and award-winning American poet, known for his poems about working-class Detroit, he was also appointed Poet Laureate of the United States for 2011–2012! Here are those awards that Philip Levine won….

2013 Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award
1995 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry – The Simple Truth (1994)
1991 National Book Award for Poetry and Los Angeles Times Book Prize – What Work Is
1987 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Modern Poetry Association and the American Council for the Arts
1981 Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine
1980 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship
1980 National Book Award for Poetry – Ashes: Poems New and Old
1979 National Book Critics Circle Award – Ashes: Poems New and Old – 7 Years from Somewhere
1978 Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry
1977 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets– The Names of the Lost (1975)
1973 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, Frank O’Hara Prize, Guggenheim Foundation fellowship

Philip Levine also, taught for more than thirty years in the English department of California State University, Fresno and held teaching positions at other universities as well including:New York University as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, at Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, and the University of California at Berkeley. Additionally,he served on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets from 2000 to 2006.

Here are two great articles to further explore to poetry of Philip Levine:

From the New York Times: An Appraisal: The Poet Philip Levine, an Outsider Archiving the Forgotten

and Philip Levine, a Poet of Grit, Sweat and Labor, Dies at 87

From the later article

In his poem “Coming Home, Detroit, 1968,” for instance, Mr. Levine wrote:

A winter Tuesday, the city pouring fire,

Ford Rouge sulfurs the sun, Cadillac, Lincoln,

Chevy gray. The fat stacks

of breweries hold their tongues. Rags,

papers, hands, the stems of birches

dirtied with words.

Additionally from his New York Times obituary…

His work was not to every critic’s taste. Because of its strong narrative thrust, frequent autobiographical bent and tendency to shun conventional poetic devices, some reviewers dismissed it as merely prose with line breaks. Others found monotony in his revisiting the same themes again and again.

But many admired his deceptively simple style, which could belie the carefully worked out cadences beneath its colloquial surface. They also praised Mr. Levine’s unabashed use of poetry as a vehicle for radical social criticism, noting his frank explorations of the nature of masculinity and his cleareyed depictions of working-class lives and the immigrant Jewish experience.

From that assessment of his work he seems like my type of poet!! I think that I needed to read more of Philip Levine’s work!

Note: The featured photograph is from the Detroit Jewish News CREDIT: Matt Valentine