Philip Levine, UI Graduate 57MFA (Writers' Workshop Faculty)

Prize Work: The Simple Truth; Pulitzer Prize: 1995 Poetry

Philip Levine (born 1928) is an American poet.

Philip LevineAuthor Biography - Philip Levine is one of America’s most celebrated and renowned poets, having been honored with a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He was born in 1928 and raised in Detroit, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. He was educated in the public schools of Detroit and also attended Wayne State University. After a succession of industrial jobs, including punching in at Chevy Gear & Axle, running jack hammer at Detroit Transmission, and muscling cases of soda pop at Mavis Nu Icy Bottling Company, Levine left Detroit to teach part-time at the University of Iowa, which enabled him to attend the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Levine, a writer who knows in his bones the corrosive effects of heat, foul air, long hours, low pay, and heavy work, believes his industrial jobs were an unlikely seedbed for his poetry. "Detroit is perfect for me. It’s not dinky. It’s just big enough. I know it. I’m a Detroit-sized poet," said Levine. "It took me a long time to be able to write about it without snarling or snapping. I had to temper the violence I felt toward those who maimed and cheated me with a tenderness toward those who had touched and blessed me." The poems and connections he forged in Iowa earned him a fellowship at Stanford University, which led, in turn, to a job at Fresno State in 1958, where he taught literature and writing for over thirty years.

Most of Levine’s poetry addresses the joys and sufferings of industrial life, poems marked by keen observation, rage and painful irony. His poetry is about the common people, but it is also for the common people. While his poems are carefully crafted and complex, they read like colloquial speech. Levine splits his time between New York City and Fresno.


Learn More About Levine's Prize Winning Work

The Simple Truth by Philip Levine

Book Description
Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for 1995, Philip Levine goes from strength to strength, having received the National Book Ward for Poetry for his earlier book What Work Is. This is the first paperback edition of this text, about which Harold Bloom said, "The controlled pathos of every poem in the volume is immense, and gives me a new sense of Levine."

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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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An Interview with Philip Levine

In an interview in May 1999, from the The Cortland Review, Philip Levine talks about how attending the University of Iowa affected his writing, the importance of teaching, and why looking through his garbage can pay off. (Audio clips available.)
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Bibliography - Philip Levine


* On the Edge (1963)
* Not This Pig (1968)
* Pili's Wall (1971)
* Red Dust (1971)
* They Feed They Lion (1972)
* 1933 (1974)
* The Names of the Lost (1976)
* Ashes: Poems New and Old (1979)
* 7 Years From Somewhere (1979)
* One for the Rose (1981)
* Selected Poems (1984)
* Sweet Will (1985)
* A Walk with Tom Jeffersonl (1988)
* New Selected Poems (1991)
* What Work Is (1991)
* The Simple Truth (1994)
* Unselected Poems (1997)
* The Mercy (1999)
* Breath (2004)


* The Bread of Time (1994)


* Tarumba: The Selected Poems of Jaime Sabines (1979)
* Off the Map: Selected Poems of Gloria Fuertes (1984)

External links