Read What Work Is by Philip Levine Free Online
Book Title: What Work Is|
Date of issue: April 30th 1991
ISBN 13: 9780679401667
The author of the book: Philip Levine
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 844 KB
Read full description of the books What Work Is:If there is such a thing as a working man's poet, then Philip Levine is it. Born into a blue-collar family in Detroit, Levine grew up amidst the steel mills and auto factories of Motor City. Laboring in the plants radicalized both Levine's politics and his art; in early works such as On the Edge and Not This Pig, he explored the gritty despair of urban working-class life, a reality that has continued to run through his later poetry as well. In his 1991 National Book Award-winning What Work Is, Levine revisits the scenes of his youth--only now the factories are shut down, the towns that depended on them devastated. In the title poem, Levine conveys a multitude of meaning in the single image of men standing in line waiting for work: the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. Factory workers aren't the only subjects here, however; in "Among Children" (an American response to Yeats's "Among School Children") Levine contemplates "the children of Flint, their fathers / work at the spark plug factory or truck / bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs / to the widows of the suburbs." For these children, he contends, the Book of Job would be the most appropriate reading.
What work is, Levine tells us, is the accretion of a lifetime of experiences, compromises, and disappointments. It is drinking gin for the first time at 14, a premature leap into manhood; it is that first job with its double-edged promise of a "new life of working and earning," and later the unrealized dreams of escaping that life. Levine's poems move back and forth in time, touch on issues of race, religion, education--even gardening--and leave the reader with a moving portrait of working-class life from the 1940s to the present day. --Alix Wilber
Read information about the authorPhilip Levine (b. January 10, 1928, Detroit, Michigan. d. February 14, 2015, Fresno, California) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet best known for his poems about working-class Detroit.
He taught for over thirty years at the English Department of California State University, Fresno and held teaching positions at other universities as well. He is appointed to serve as the Poet Laureate of the United States for 2011–2012.
Philip Levine grew up in industrial Detroit, the second of three sons and the first of identical twins of Jewish immigrant parents. His father, Harry Levine owned a used auto parts business, his mother Esther Priscol (Prisckulnick) Levine was a bookseller. When Levine was five years old, his father died. Growing up, he faced the anti-Semitism embodied by the pro-Hitler radio priest Father Coughlin.
Levine started to work in car manufacturing plants at the age of 14. He graduated from Detroit Central High School in 1946 and went to college at Wayne University (now Wayne State University) in Detroit, where he began to write poetry, encouraged by his mother, to whom he later dedicated the book of poems The Mercy. Levine got his A.B. in 1950 and went to work for Chevrolet and Cadillac in what he calls "stupid jobs". He married his first wife Patty Kanterman in 1951. The marriage lasted until 1953. In 1953 he went to the University of Iowa without registering, studying among others with poets Robert Lowell and John Berryman, the latter of which Levine called his "one great mentor". In 1954 he graduated with a mail-order masters degree with a thesis on John Keats' "Ode to Indolence", and married actress Frances J. Artley. He returned to the University of Iowa teaching technical writing, completing his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1957. The same year, he was awarded the Jones Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University. In 1958 he joined the English Department at California State University in Fresno, where he taught until his retirement in 1992. He has also taught at many other universities, among them New York University as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, at Columbia, Princeton, Brown, Tufts, and the University of California at Berkeley.
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