I read in the NY TImes this week that Philip Levine is to be the next American Poet Laureate. In that great tradition that they took from the British, Levine will succeed W.S.Merwin in the role.
And in tune with these tough economic times, Levine is a working man’s poet. The NY TImes says:
Mr. Levine grew up in Detroit, back when it was still a “vital city,” he said. His parents were emigrants from Russia, but for some reason they told him he was of Spanish ancestry ,and as a young man he became fascinated with Spanish anarchism and the Spanish Civil War, which still turn up in his poems. Mr. Levine’s father died when he was 5, leaving the family hard up, and before embracing poetry he held a succession of what he has called “stupid jobs.” He built transmissions for Cadillac, worked in the Chevrolet gear and axle factory, drove a truck for Railway Express. His early poems, often written in narrow, seven-syllable lines, were gritty, hard-nosed evocations of the lives of working people and their neighborhoods.
Over the years Mr. Levine’s subject matter hasn’t changed much — he remains a distinctly urban poet — but his line has lengthened, and his edge has softened. Many of his poems these days are narrative, anecdotal elegies for that vanished working-class world, and as in the title poem of his Pulitzer-winning volume, he finds depths of beauty in the simplest of pleasures