New Poet Laureate for USA Philip Levine

America has announced it's new and 18th Poet Laureate, 83 years old Philip Levine. He is one of the oldest poets to hold the position.

He was born in Detroit to Russian Jewish immigrant parents and has long identified with the blue collar workers among whom he worked in that city.

This is a lovely video walk through Philip Levine's Brooklyn to discover what inspires him and a sample of his poetry from here.

A Poetry Foundation Review /Biography here. ( Very thorough)

and his work as described in this New York Times article by Dwight Garner:
"The work of Philip Levine, is welcome because it radiates a heat of a sort not often felt in today’s poetry, that transmitted by grease, soil, factory light, cheap and honest food, sweat, low pay, cigarettes and second shifts. It is a plainspoken poetry ready-made, it seems, for a time of  downgrades, a double-dip recession and debts left unpaid."
The laureate, who receives $35,000 and is known officially as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, serves from October through May. Richard Wilbur, Joseph Brodsky, Robert Pinsky and Billy Collins are among the previous appointees.

Cover of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry

The laureate has few official duties and poets have used the job to pursue a range of personal projects, 
from Billy Collins' "Poetry 180," which encourages the reading of verse in high school, 
to Robert Hass' "Watershed" conference on nature writing.


So what might Levine want to do ?

Phil Levine by David Shankbone, New York CityImage via Wikipedia

   "I don't want to overextend myself, but at the same time I would like to use the 'bully pulpit,' as they call it, to bring attention to some of my concerns," Levine says."There's a great deal of American poetry that's hardly known and that should be known. As a poet who didn't get published for a long time, I know what it's like to not to be read. 

The other thing I'd like to do is reach out to readers. I would like to bring attention to the kind of people I've written about."

Want to know more ??

A link to NPR article on Levine here

A link here to a transcript and live interview with Philip Levine behind the scenes of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2009 with Nick Patrick, produced by The Poetry Trust.

A critical take on Levine's proletariat views from here
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