Sunday, February 15, 2015

the poet philip levine

i just learned philip levine died yesterday at age 87 in his home in fresno, ca.  some people you think will live forever and for me this poet was one of those people.  when i reentered school at the age of 25 i took a poetry writing course from dennis schmitz [a terrific poet in his own right].  i've been reading poetry since i was in my teens but it wasn't until my mid-twenties when i discovered levine's book what work is [knopf; 1992].  the book blew open my mind.  levine was a working class guy writing about working class people in a style that was influenced by spanish surrealism.  i knew his people.  i grew up with them.  and that he made his home in fresno corroborated by belief that poetry can be written anywhere and about anything.  you don't need to escape to paris and starve in a garret.  you don't have to make NYC your home.  you can live in the central valley and create a poetry as vivid and as vital as any written by rimbaud or ted berrigan.  schmitz invited levine to read at sac state in 1992.  i was in the audience and was awestruck by levine's earthy humor and poems.  when a student entered the classroom -- for levine read in an auditorium style classroom -- late levine stopped what he was saying and said to the student, 'hi, i'm dennis schimtz'.  perfect timing.  just this morning i was looking at the books on my shelves and looked at the spine of levine's memoir the bread of time [knopf; 1994].  i found that book in a remaindered bookstore that year.  i have treasured levine's poetry for these many years.  from one working class bloke to another, philip, you are missed.


At 3:26 PM, Blogger Jean Vengua said...

I was lucky enough to see/hear him read at Cabrillo college a couple decades ago....


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