Friday, August 12, 2011

United States Has New Poet Laureate--Philip Levine

From the Los Angeles Times, Philip Levine, an 83 year old poet who spend 34 years teaching at Cal State Fresno, has been named America's poet laureate.
Philip Levine, an award-winning poet who taught at Cal State Fresno for 34 years, has been named the new U.S. poet laureate. Levine will succeed W.S. Merwin and begin his yearlong tenure as poet laureate in October.

Levine was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1995 for his collection "The Simple Truth," the National Book Award in 1991 for "What Work Is" and in 1980 for "Ashes," which also won the National Book Critics Circle Award, as did "Seven Years From Somewhere.". . . 
The U.S. poet laureate is selected by the Librarian of Congress in Washington, D.C. Joseph Brodsky, Rita Dove and W.S. Merwin, the current poet laureate, are among those who have been accorded the honor. The duties and responsibilities of the poet laureate, who receives a $35,000 stipend, are largely ceremonial, but a poet who wishes to do so can undertake any projects he or she likes during his tenure.
The Christian Science Monitor lauds Levine as a working man's poet.
The Library of Congress may have given Americans a much-needed hero when it named Philip Levine the United States Poet Laureate earlier this week. Levine’s working-class background and impressive accolades – including the Pulitzer Prize – make him the perfect role model both for struggling writers and for millions of Americans who wonder if the whole world is spinning out of control, taking their money and dreams along with it.

Both papers excerpt poems that support CSM's analysis.  From the LA Times, "What Work Is"
   We stand in the rain in a long line
    waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
    You know what work is—if you’re
    old enough to read this you know what
    work is, although you may not do it.
    Forget you. This is about waiting,
    shifting from one foot to another.
    Feeling the light rain falling like mist
    into your hair, blurring your vision
    until you think you see your own brother
    ahead of you, maybe ten places.
    You rub your glasses with your fingers,
    and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
    narrower across the shoulders than
    yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
    that does not hide the stubbornness,
    the sad refusal to give in to
    rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
    to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
    a man is waiting who will say, “No,
    we’re not hiring today,” for any
    reason he wants....

From CSM, “Detroit Grease Shop Poem”:
Under the blue
hesitant light another day
at Automotive
in the city of dreams.
We're all here to count
and be counted, Lemon,
Rosie, Eugene, Luis,
and me, too young to know
this is for keeps, pinning
on my apron, rolling up
my sleeves.
. . . .

The roof leaks
from yesterday's rain,
the waters gather above us
waiting for one mistake.
When a drop falls on Lemon's
corded arm, he looks at it
as though it were something
rare or mysterious
like a drop of water or
a single lucid meteor
fallen slowly from
nowhere and burning on
his skin like a tear.
A large number of Levine's poems can be found at Poem Hunter.

1 comment:

theoncominghope said...

Lovely post! I'm glad to become acquainted with Levine, but I'm most grateful to him for introducing me to Galway Kinnell:

A little bit about my discovery of Kinnell:
http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/08/discovering-new-old-poets-galway.html