Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

Philip Levine Poems

41. Told 1/13/2003
42. The End Of Your Life 1/13/2003
43. Waking In March 1/13/2003
44. The Red Shirt 1/13/2003
45. Late Light 1/13/2003
46. Picture Postcard From The Other World 1/13/2003
47. The Whole Soul 1/13/2003
48. Gangrene 1/13/2003
49. Voyages 1/13/2003
50. How Much Earth 1/13/2003
51. The Drunkard 1/13/2003
52. Making It Work 1/13/2003
53. On The Meeting Of GarcÍA Lorca And Hart Crane 1/13/2003
54. Burial Rites 1/10/2012
55. House Of Silence 1/13/2003
56. In A Light Time 1/13/2003
57. Those Were The Days 1/13/2003
58. Smoke 1/13/2003
59. Ode For Mrs. William Settle 1/13/2003
60. Last Words 1/13/2003
61. The Dead 1/13/2003
62. Once 1/13/2003
63. Mad Day In March 1/13/2003
64. Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child 1/13/2003
65. The Unknowable 1/13/2003
66. Milkweed 1/13/2003
67. Fist 1/13/2003
68. Wisteria 1/13/2003
69. Green Thumb 1/13/2003
70. The Mercy 1/13/2003
71. Songs 1/13/2003
72. Where We Live Now 1/13/2003
73. On The Murder Of Lieutenant Jose Del Castillo 1/13/2003
74. My Fathers, The Baltic 1/13/2003
75. The Water's Chant 1/13/2003
76. For The Country 1/13/2003
77. I Sing The Body Electric 1/13/2003
78. M. Degas Teaches Art &Amp; Science At Durfee Intermediate School--Detroit, 1942 1/13/2003
79. Holding On 1/13/2003
80. I Won, You Lost 1/13/2003

Comments about Philip Levine

  • Greg Bell Greg Bell (4/16/2017 5:26:00 PM)

    Finally discovered the beauty of Philip Levine's poetry in his poem, 'A Sign.' Quiet, not flashy stuff, but deeply resonant.

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  • Wes Dixon Wes Dixon (7/28/2015 11:34:00 AM)

    Phillip Levine is not the first author I found just moments after their death. The first was not officially a poet, I guess, but Ayn Rand's work has the same epic aspects. I find Mr. Levine to be more realistic than my own favorite poet Billy Collins. He has the same accessibility...I like accessibility. Sorry I missed him...but then that is also something of a trademark among artists...

  • Susan Oneil (4/7/2011 8:19:00 AM)

    I love his Unholy Saturday and don't see it on your site.Is it that new?

  • Doren Robbins Doren Robbins (12/18/2008 12:40:00 AM)

    On What Work Is

    Philip Levine's poetry evokes the vibrant durability and continuity of things. It is no accident that the seemingly unbreakable thistle, which survives California's harsh summers, is his 'flower.' At least he has celebrated it in such a way throughout his books. Possibly he has done so because its work is to survive, and it does. the way we must, impassively committed surviving, standing up though the harsh heat, the inevitable storms. Levine's poem, 'What Work Is, ' should be read in this context. To work is to survive, and the details of how difficult or debased work can be are evoked in the title poem and the poem 'Growth' (each the book What Work Is) . Levine was the man, he suffered, he was there. But the symbolic importance of work operates as an emblem of the soul as well, since not knowing how to love, Levine writes, is to not 'know what work is.' We may seem to be closer here to the meaning of work as it occurs in the tragedies, desolations, and betrayals of the remarkable book of poems Hard Labor by the Italian poet Cesare Pavese than to the Whitman of 'A Song of Occupations. But the paradox that Whitman extols, where 'Objects gross and the unseen soul are one' are filtered through a rich groove into Levine's book in the poem 'Soloing.' In the poem his mother tells him 'she dreamed/ of John Coltrane, 'a young Trane/ playing his music with such joy/ and contained energy and rage/ she could not hold back her tears/.' Levine sees the dream visitation as a Dream Vision, a gift of music from the great musician so lasting in the force of his passion that he is retained within, and resurfaces out of, the 'unseen' after death in the mother's dream. And here the poet, almost Dante-like, coming into the smogged-over sea-dead L.A. basin simultaneously presents the dignified but saddened alone-ness of the mother with the mother who is still a source of sustenance, whose work as a mother is not over. There is then a placental quality to the poem since the mother's dream itself was the substance that fed the poet-son's language. The remarkable quality, especially of Levine's later poems, is this capacity for lucidly evoking the subtleties of how the inner and outer worlds of experience inter-relate. He could also be saying that sometimes you have to go through hell, and that it is worth going through hell, to receive a gift from the mother—herself a symbol of what primarily sustains and devours all. But the possibly deeper comical or mystical intent is incidental. At the foundation of Levine's poetry is the durability that arises out of integrity: he is committed to finishing the 'job, ' knowing there are all the reasons in the world to hesitate, but that if he did quit, if he were to ever 'have turned back, ' he would have 'lost the music.' One of Levine’s best books.

Best Poem of Philip Levine

A Sleepless Night

April, and the last of the plum blossoms
scatters on the black grass
before dawn. The sycamore, the lime,
the struck pine inhale
the first pale hints of sky.
An iron day,
I think, yet it will come
dazzling, the light
rise from the belly of leaves and pour
burning from the cups
of poppies.
The mockingbird squawks
from his perch, fidgets,
and settles back. The snail, awake
for good, trembles from his shell
and sets sail for China. My hand dances
in the memory of a million ...

Read the full of A Sleepless Night

Where We Live Now


We live here because the houses
are clean, the lawns run
right to the street

and the streets run away.
No one walks here.
No one wakens at night or dies.

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