Philip Levine passed away over the weekend, on Saturday the 14th. His poetry was recognized with two National Book Awards, a Pulitzer, and with an appointment as a U.S. poet laureate. Levine was one of the first and most prominent poets to really put his hometown of Detroit into verse, and found a plainspoken language to join rafters of small yet hallowed places, to give pause, to tell the stories of the people getting off the graveyard shift, to mourn with, etc. It all started when he was only thirteen.
In his work there was a way of recognizing aspects of the everyday as poetry; in an interview, he once said that was the greatest lesson he learned from William Carlos Williams. “Don’t scorn your life just because it’s not dramatic, or it’s impoverished, or it looks dull, or it’s workaday. Don’t scorn it. It is where poetry is taking place if you’ve got the sensitivity to see it, if your eyes are open.”
Philip Levine authored three books of essays, interviews and memoir for the University of Michigan Press, and inspired a fourth of literary criticism. They can be found here. You can listen to the full appreciation on NPR’s Morning Edition here and read an appreciation from the American Academy of Poets here.