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Works by
Philip Levine
(Poet)
[January 10, 1928 - ]

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Profile created October 26, 2009
Updated November 4, 2009
Essays
  • So Ask: Essays, Conversations, and Interviews (2002

  • The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography (1994)
    The Bread of Time is an amalgam of celebration and quest. In this memoir, Philip Levine celebrates the poets who were his teachers--particularly John Berryman and Yvor Winters, writers whose lives and work, he believes, have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the process of writing this account of his childhood and young manhood in Detroit and of his middle and later years in California and Spain, Levine came to realize that he was also engaged in a quest, striving to discover "how I am." The resulting work provides a double-edged revelation of the way writers grow. Witty and elegantly rendered in a prose that is as characteristically Levine's as his verse, this is superb--and essential--reading for anyone interested in contemporary poetry and poets.

    Philip Levine has received many awards for his books of poems, most recently the National Book Award for What Work Is in 1991 and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for The Simple Truth in 1995. Levine recently retired from the University of California, Fresno.

Poetry
  • News of the World (October 6, 2009)
    A superb new collection from “a great American poet . . . still at work on his almost-song of himself” (The New York Times Book Review).

    In both lively prose poems and more formal verse, Philip Levine brings us news from everywhere: from Detroit, where exhausted workers try to find a decent breakfast after the late shift, and Henry Ford, “supremely bored” in his mansion, clocks in at one of his plants . . . from Spain, where a woman sings a song that rises at dawn, like the dust of ages, through an open window . . . from Andorra, where an old Communist can now supply you with anything you want—a French radio, a Cadillac, or, if you have a week, an American film star.

    The world of his poetry is one of questionable magic: a typist lives for her only son who will die in a war to come; three boys fish in a river while a fine industrial residue falls on their shoulders. This is a haunted world in which exotic animals travel first class, an immigrant worker in Detroit yearns for the silence of his Siberian exile, and the Western mountains “maintain that huge silence we think of as divine.”

    A rich, deeply felt collection from one of our master poets.

  • Breath (2004)
    Always a poet of memory and invention, Philip Levine looks back at his own life as well as the adventures of his ancestors, his relatives, and his friends, and at their rites of passage into an America of victories and betrayals. He transports us back to the street where he was born “early in the final industrial century” to help us envision an America he’s known from the 1930s to the present. His subjects include his brothers, a great-uncle who gave up on America and returned to czarist Russia, a father who survived unspeakable losses, the artists and musicians who inspired him, and fellow workers at the factory who shared the best and worst of his coming of age.

    Throughout the collection Levine rejoices in song–Dinah Washington wailing from a jukebox in midtown Manhattan; Della Daubien hymning on the crosstown streetcar; Max Roach and Clifford Brown at a forgotten Detroit jazz palace; the prayers offered to God by an immigrant uncle dreaming of the Judean hills; the hoarse notes of a factory worker who, completing another late shift, serenades the sleeping streets.

    Like all of Levine’s poems, these are a testament to the durability of love, the strength of the human spirit, the persistence of life in the presence of the coming dark.

  • The Mercy (1999)
    Philip Levine's new collection of poems (his first since The Simple Truth was awarded the Pulitzer Prize) is a book of journeys: the necessary ones that each of us takes from innocence to experience, from youth to age, from confusion to clarity, from sanity to madness and back again, from life to death, and occasionally from defeat to triumph. The book's mood is best captured in the closing lines of the title poem, which takes its name from the ship that brought the poet's mother to America: A nine-year-old girl travels all night by train with one suitcase and an orange. She learns that mercy is something you can eat again and again while the juice spills over your chin, you can wipe it away with the back of your hands and you can never get enough.

  • Unselected Poems (1997)

  • The Simple Truth (1994) -- Winner 1995 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
    Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for 1995, Philip Levine goes from strength to strength, having received the National Book Ward for Poetry for his earlier book What Work Is. This is the first paperback edition of this text, about which Harold Bloom said, "The controlled pathos of every poem in the volume is immense, and gives me a new sense of Levine."

  • What Work Is (1991) -- Winner 1991 National Book Award for Poetry
    A collection of poems culled from the poet's twelve earlier books includes such pieces as  "Fear and Fame," "Coming Close," "Every Blessed Day," and the title poem.

  • New Selected Poems (1991)

  • A Walk With Tom Jefferson (1988)

  • Sweet Will (1985)

  • Selected Poems (1984)

  • One for the Rose (1981)

  • 7 Years From Somewhere (1979) -- Winner 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award

  • Ashes: Poems New and Old (1979) -- Winner 1979 American Book Award for Poetry; Winner 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award

  • The Names of the Lost (1976)

  • 1933 (1974)

  • They Feed They Lion (1972)

  • Red Dust (1971)

  • Pili's Wall (1971)

  • Not This Pig (1968)

  • On the Edge (1963)

Translations
Other
  • Earth, Stars, and Writers (1992) by Norman Rush, Orlando Patterson, and Philip Levine

  • Don't Ask (1981)
    Interviews with the poet Philip Levine on the subject of his poetry.

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