Philip Levine "is a large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland" who, according to Edward Hirsch in the New York Times Book Review, should be considered "one of [America's] . . . quintessentially urban poets."
He was born in 1928 to
Russian-Jewish immigrants in Detroit, a city that inspired much of his
writing. Author of 20 collections of poetry, his most recent is News Of
The World (Knopf, 2009). The Simple Truth won the Pulitzer Prize in
1995. What Work Is won the National Book Award in 1991. David Baker
writes, “What Work Is
may be one of the most important books of poetry of our time. Poem
after poem confronts the terribly damaged conditions of American labor,
whose circumstance has perhaps never been more wrecked." Levine is known
as the poet of the working class, and he remains dedicated to writing
poetry "for people for whom there is no poetry.”
As well as having received the Pulitzer Prize and
two National Book Awards, Levine is also the recipient of the National
Book Critics Award and the Ruth Lily prize. He divides his time between
Brooklyn, NY, and Fresno, CA.
Levine’s poem, “What Work Is,” is featured in the 2010 UW Common Book.
"Levine’s use of simple prose-like language and incredible depth of insight into the romance of work and struggle seemed like the perfect choice. He is a poet who could knock students used to reading Shakespeare and Milton into the poetry of today and tell them a thing or two about life along the way."
--Sam Kolodezh, student ambassador for the UW Common Book, on the inclusion of "What Work Is" in the Common Book.
“I saw that the
people that I was working with…were voiceless in a way. In terms of the
literature of the United States they weren’t being heard. Nobody was speaking
for them. And as young people will, you know, I took this foolish vow that I
would speak for them and that’s what my life would be. And sure enough I’ve
gone and done it. Or I’ve tried anyway…”