800px-Phil Levine by David Shankbone

Philip Levine in 2006. Photo by David Shankbone. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Philip Levine
Born January 10, 1928 (1928-01-10) (age 89)
Detroit, Michigan
Known for Award winning poet

Philip Levine (born January 10, 1928) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet and academic. He taught for many years at California State University, Fresno. He was the Distinguished Poet in Residence for the Creative Writing Program at New York University.


Levine was born and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. The familial, social, and economic world of 20th-century industrial Detroit is one of the major subjects of his life's work. His portraits of working class Americans and his continuous examination of his Jewish immigrant inheritance (both based on real life and described through fictional characters) has left a testimony of mid-20th century American life.

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 car manufacturing plants. He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he studied with Robert Lowell and John Berryman.

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. Other collections include the National Book Award-winning What Work Is, A Walk with Tom Jefferson, and his New Selected Poems.

In 1968, Levine signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[1]

On November 29, 2007 a tribute was held in New York City in anticipation of Levine's 80th birthday. Among those celebrating Levine's career by reading Levine's work were Yusef Komunyakaa, Galway Kinnell, E.L. Doctorow, Charles Wright, Jean Valentine, and Sharon Olds. Levine himself read several new and interesting poems. He thanked his students and asked them to refrain from asking for any more letters of recommendation.


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 an example of the cascade of clauses and phrases one finds in his poetry.




  • On the Edge (limited edition). Iowa City, IA: Stone Wall Press, 1961; second edition, 1963.
  • Silent in America: Vivas for those Who failed (limited edition). Iowa City, IA: Shaw Avenue Press, 1965.
  • Not This Pig. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1968.
  • 5 Detroits. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1970.
  • Thistles: A poem sequence (limited edition). London: Turret Books, 1970.
  • Pili's Wall. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1971; second edition, 1980.
  • Red Dust (illustrated by Marcia Mann). Santa Cruz, CA: Kayak, 1971.
  • They Feed They Lion. New York: Atheneum, 1972; New York: Knopf, 1999.
  • 1933. New York: Atheneum, 1974.
  • New Season (pamphlet). St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 1975.
  • On the Edge and Over: Poems old, lost, and new. Oakland, CA: Cloud Marauder, 1976.
  • The Names of the Lost (limited edition). Iowa City, IA: Windhover Press, 1976; New York: Atheneum, 1976.
  • 7 Years from Somewhere. New York: Atheneum, 1979.
  • Ashes: Poems new and old. New York: Atheneum, 1979.
  • One for the Rose. New York: Atheneum, 1981.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Atheneum, 1984.
  • Sweet Will. New York: Atheneum, 1985.
  • A Walk with Tom Jefferson. New York: Knopf, 1988.
  • New Selected Poems. New York: Knopf, 1991.
  • What Work Is. New York: Knopf, 1991.
  • The Simple Truth. New York: Knopf, 1994.
  • Unselected Poems. Santa Cruz, CA: Greenhouse Review Press, 1997.
  • The Mercy. New York: Knopf, 1999.
  • Breath: Poems. New York: Knopf, 2004.
  • News of the World. New York: Knopf, 2009.


  • Don't Ask (interviews). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1981.
  • Earth, Stars, and Writers (lectures; With Orlando Patterson & Norman Rush). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1992.
  • The Bread of Time: Toward an autobiography. New York: Knopf, 1994.
  • So Ask: Essays, conversations, and interviews. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2002.


  • Jaime Sabines, Tarumba: The selected poems (editor, & translator with Ernesto Trejo) . San Francisco, CA: Twin Peaks Press, 1979.
  • Gloria Fuertes, Off the Map: Selected poems (edited with Ada Long, & translated). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1984.


  • Character and Crisis: A Contemporary Reader (edited with Henri Coulette). New York: McGraw, 1966.
  • The Pushcart Prize XI (edited with D. Wojahn & B. Henderson). Wainscott, NY: Pushcart, 1986.
  • John Keats, The Essential Keats (selected, & author of introduction). New York: Ecco Press, 1987.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[2]

Audio / videoEdit

Sound recordings include Philip Levine Reading His Poems with Comment, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1975; Bicentennial Poetry Discussion, 1976; The Poetry and Voice of Philip Levine, Caedmon, 1976; Hear Me, Watershed Tapes; Philip Levine, 1986; and Mark Turpin and Philip Levine Reading Their Poems in the Mumford Room, 1997.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  2. 2.0 2.1 Philip Levine b. 1928, Poetry Foundation, Web, Oct. 30, 2012.

External linksEdit

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