Philip Levine: Poet Laureate; Not Dead

So, the news that Philip Levine has acquired the role of US Poet Laureate is exciting on two levels. One, he’s a great poet. Two, if you had asked me a week ago, I would have told you he died back in the 90s. I sincerely thought Philip Levine was dead, and this is the way I find out I was wrong? I hear he’s our new poet laureate? So great!

From poets.org:

Born in Detroit, Michigan, on January 10, 1928, Philip Levine was formally educated in the Detroit public school system and at Wayne University (now Wayne State University), Michigan’s only urban public research university. After graduation, Levine worked a number of industrial jobs, including the night shift at the Chevrolet Gear and Axle factory, reading and writing poems in his off hours. In 1953, he studied at the University of Iowa, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. There, Levine studied with poets Robert Lowell and John Berryman, the latter of which Levine called his “one great mentor.”

And, for fun, here’s the first Philip Levine poem I ever read (which [bonus] reminds me of one of my favorite Flannery O’Connor stories, The River). It’s called Animals are Passing From Our Lives:

It’s wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.

I’m to market. I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers

that shake out the intestines
like a hankie. In my dreams
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,

suffering the consumers
who won’t meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see. The boy
who drives me along believes

that any moment I’ll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife

discovering television,
or that I’ll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth. No. Not this pig.

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