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. Voyages 1/13/2003
49. How Much Earth 1/13/2003
50. Then 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. House Of Silence 1/13/2003
55. In A Light Time 1/13/2003
56. The Water's Chant 1/13/2003
57. Smoke 1/13/2003
58. Ode For Mrs. William Settle 1/13/2003
59. Last Words 1/13/2003
60. The Dead 1/13/2003
61. Mad Day In March 1/13/2003
62. Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child 1/13/2003
63. Milkweed 1/13/2003
64. Gangrene 1/13/2003
65. Wisteria 1/13/2003
66. The Mercy 1/13/2003
67. Songs 1/13/2003
68. Where We Live Now 1/13/2003
69. On The Murder Of Lieutenant Jose Del Castillo 1/13/2003
70. My Fathers, The Baltic 1/13/2003
71. Those Were The Days 1/13/2003
72. I Sing The Body Electric 1/13/2003
73. M. Degas Teaches Art &Amp; Science At Durfee Intermediate School--Detroit, 1942 1/13/2003
74. Holding On 1/13/2003
75. Once 1/13/2003
76. Burial Rites 1/10/2012
77. I Won, You Lost 1/13/2003
78. Fist 1/13/2003
79. Green Thumb 1/13/2003
80. For The Country 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

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought, ...

Read the full of An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

Coming Close

Take this quiet woman, she has been
standing before a polishing wheel
for over three hours, and she lacks
twenty minutes before she can take
a lunch break. Is she a woman?
Consider the arms as they press
the long brass tube against the buffer,
they are striated along the triceps,
the three heads of which clearly show.

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