Philip Levine (poet)

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Philip Levine reading on 16 Sept 2006
Philip Levine reading on 16 Sept 2006

Philip Levine (b. January 10, 1928, Detroit, Michigan) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet. He is the Distinguished Poet in Residence for the Creative Writing Program at New York University.


  • 1 Overview
  • 2 Style
    • 2.1 Selected Works
    • 2.2 Volumes
    • 2.3 Essays
    • 2.4 Translations
    • 2.5 Interviews
    • 2.6 Awards
    • 2.7 External links
    • 2.8 References


Growing up, his parents told him he was Spanish; "Why my parents, both born in a little shtetl in western Russia, would tell me this, I have no idea. But it may have had something to do with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492." As a youth, Levine faced the anti-Semitism embodied by a local celebrity, the pro-Hitler radio priest Father Coughlin.

Levine began to write poetry while he was going to night school at Wayne University (now Wayne State University) in Detroit and working days at one of that city's automobile manufacturing plants. Levine's working experience lent his poetry a profound skepticism in regard to conventional American ideals. In his first two books, On the Edge (1963) and Not This Pig (1968), the poetry dwells on those who suddenly become aware they are trapped in some murderous processes not of their own making.

Levine was an anarchist who claimed that "property was unneeded and unecessary" until he bought his first house. He later moved to California, then New York, to teach and write.


Levine's poetry frequently features animals, the factory workers of Detroit and the revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War.

In his first two books, Levine was somewhat traditional in form and relatively constrained in expression. Beginning with They Feed They Lion, Levine's poems are typically free-verse monologues tending toward trimeter or tetrameter. The music of Levine's poetry depends on tension between his line-breaks and his syntax. The title poem of Levine's book 1933 (1974) is a good example of the cascade of clauses and phrases one finds in his poetry.

Selected Works

  • "Coming Close"
  • "Drum"
  • "Gospel"
  • "On 52nd Street"
  • "The Two"


  • Breath (2004)
  • The Mercy (1999)
  • Unselected Poems (1997)
  • The Simple Truth (1994)
  • What Work Is (1991)
  • 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)
  • Ashes: Poems New and Old (1979)
  • 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)


  • The Bread of Time (1994)


  • Off the Map: Selected Poems of Gloria Fuertes, edited and translated with Ada Long (1984)
  • Tarumba: The Selected Poems of Jaime Sabines, edited and translated With Ernesto Trejo (1979)


  • Don't Ask (1981)


  • 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry - The Simple Truth"
  • 1991 National Book Award - What Work Is
  • 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award Ashes: Poems New and Old
  • 1979 American Book Award for Poetry - Ashes: Poems New and Old
  • 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award - 7 Years from Somewhere
  • 1975 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize "The Names of the Lost"
  • 1987 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize
  • Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry
  • Frank O'Hara Prize
  • Two Guggenheim Foundation fellowships
  • Blackbird Archive "Breakfasts with Joachim" by Philip Levine, published in Blackbird, an online journal of literature and the arts.
    • Internet Poetry Archive
    • [1] Modern American Poetry
    • [2]Modern American Poetry - About Philip Levine
    • [3] Modern American Poetry - About Philip Levine
    • [4] Modern American Poetry - Bibliography
    • [5]Modern American Poetry - Criticism for They Feed The Lion
    • [6]
    • SEX AND STYLE IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY (Longenbach, James, Raritan, 0275-1607, March 1, 2000, Vol. 19, Issue 4)
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