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New US Poet Laureate to be named today

Tip o’ the cap to Paul Marion, who posted that the NYTimes has reported that Philip Levine is going to be named the next US Poet Laureate later today. Levine, 83, is a native of Detroit Michigan and a celebrated poet of the working class experience. A telling fact about his creative aesthetic is that he worked for in several local factories including Chevrolet Gear and Axle and Detroit Transmission while in graduate school earning a masters with a thesis on Keats’s ‘Indolence Ode.’ He studied at Iowa alongside the likes of Robert Lowell and under the likes of John Berryman. I really enjoy his reaction to being named us poet laureate: ”

“How can I put it? It’s like winning the Pulitzer,” he explained. “If you take it too seriously, you’re an idiot. But if you look at the names of the other poets who have won it, most of them are damn good. Not all of them — I’m not going to name names — but most. My editor was thrilled, and my wife jumped for joy. She hasn’t done that in a while.”

Here’s a sample of one of his earlier poems:

On the Edge

My name is Edgar Poe and I was born

in 1928 in Michigan.

Nobody gave a damn. The gruel I ate

Kept me alive, nothing kept me warm,

But I grew up, almost to five foot ten,

And nothing in the world can change my weight.

I have been watching you these many years,

There in the office, pencil poised and ready,

Or on the highway when you went ahead.

I did not write; I watched you watch the stars

Believing that the wheel of fate was steady;

I was you rise from love and go to bed;

I heard you lie, even to you daughter.

I did not write, for I am Edgar Poe,

Edgar the mad one, silly, drunk, unwise,

But Edgar waiting on the edge of laughter,

And there is nothing that he does not know

Whose page is blanker than the raining skies.


More samples of Levine’s work are available at the NYTimes online. The Pollard also has a few of his books available to checkout.