April 12, 2012 Poet Laureate Philip Levine Closes the Literary Season on May 3

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Robert Casper (202) 707-5394
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6382 (voice/tty) or ada@loc.gov

U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine, whose poetry has honored the working man for almost half a century, will conclude the Library of Congress 2011-2012 literary season with a lecture titled “The Forgotten Poets of My Youth.”

The lecture will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow. Tickets are not required, but early arrival is strongly recommended.

Levine has maintained a frenetic reading schedule since assuming the laureateship last October, charming audiences with what Charles McGrath of the New York Times describes as “big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems.” Levine has discussed using the position to champion “the enormous number of forgotten poets out there.” With this lecture, he will renew that ambition by discussing seven poets who influenced him when he was younger, and whose work he feels is still relevant today.

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, announced the Laureate’s appointment on August 10. In making the selection, Billington said, “Philip Levine is one of America’s great narrative poets,” adding, “his plainspoken lyricism has, for half a century, championed the art of telling ‘The Simple Truth’—about working in a Detroit auto factory, as he has, and about the hard work we do to make sense of our lives.”

Levine is the author of 20 collections of poems, including most recently “News of the World” (2009). The New York Times Sunday Book Review described it as “characteristically wise.” Levine won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for “The Simple Truth,” the National Book Award in 1991 for “What Work Is” and in 1980 for “Ashes: Poems New and Old,” the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1979 for both “Ashes: Poems New and Old” and “7 Years From Somewhere,” and the 1975 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for “Names of the Lost.”

His other awards include the Frank O’Hara Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (for which he served as chair of the Literature Panel). In 1997, Levine was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and he served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2000-2006.

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress fosters and enhances the public’s appreciation of literature. The center administers the endowed poetry chair (the U.S. Poet Laureate), and coordinates an annual literary season of poetry, fiction and drama readings, performances, lectures and symposia, sponsored by the Library’s Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund and the Huntington Fund. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/poetry/.


PR 12-077
ISSN 0731-3527