The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, has named Philip Levine as the newest United States Poet Laureate. According to the Library of Congress’s press release discussing Levine,
“Born in Detroit, Mich., on Jan. 10, 1928, Levine received degrees from Wayne State University and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and in 1957 was awarded the Jones Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford. As a student, he worked a number of industrial jobs at Detroit’s auto-manufacturing plants, including Detroit Transmission—a branch of Cadillac—and the Chevrolet Gear and Axle factory. Levine has said about writing poems in his mid-20s during his factory days: ‘I believed even then that if I could transform my experience into poetry, I would give it the value and dignity it did not begin to possess on its own. I thought, too, that if I could write about it I could come to understand it; I believed that if I could understand my life—or at least the part my work played in it—I could embrace it with some degree of joy, an element conspicuously missing from my life.'”
You might like to view a list of Levine’s works owned by the UIUC Library: our collections include nearly all of his poetry books, as well as his autobiographical The Bread of Time and the essays and other texts collected in So Ask.
Levine’s entry in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online (access limited to UIUC users) also points to several interesting resources having to do with Levine, including interviews and critical discussions of his work.
There are also a number of free Web resources having to do with Levine’s work:
- Selections from four of Levine’s poetry collections: On the Edge (1963), Ashes (1979), Sweet Will (1985) and A Walk with Tom Jefferson (1988)
- A lengthy interview with Levine from The Atlantic, discussing various aspects of his poetics and influences