The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > September 2011 > A Voice for the Voiceless
A Voice for the Voiceless

Aiming to be the voice of the common man, poet Philip Levine turns often to the lives of factory workers – he was one, for a time – who daily face the drudgery of the assembly line. Critics have claimed his poems are about “the experiencing of America.”

Philip Levine. Photographer Geoffrey Berliner. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction. Chevrolet Motors, Detroit, Mich. 1942. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USE6-D-002914 (b&w film neg.); Call No.: LC-USE6- D-002914 [P&P]

This “simple truth,” as Librarian of Congress James H. Billington calls it, has led Levine to be the Library’s 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2011-2012. He will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season with a reading of his work at the Coolidge Auditorium on Monday, Oct. 17, which will also be webcast at later date.

Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, Rita Dove and Richard Wilbur.

Levine is the author of 20 collections of poems, including most recently "News of the World" (2009), which The New York Times Sunday Book Review describes as "characteristically wise." Levine won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for "The Simple Truth," and the National Book Award in 1991 for "What Work Is" and in 1980 for "Ashes: Poems New and Old."

Born in Detroit, Mich., on Jan. 10, 1928, Levine received degrees from Wayne State University and is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. In 1957, he was awarded the Jones Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford. As a student, he worked a number of industrial jobs at Detroit’s auto-manufacturing plants, including Detroit Transmission – a branch of Cadillac – and the Chevrolet Gear and Axle factory.

More information on Levine can be found in this web guide.

And, speaking of web guides, if you’re a budding poet who has published a poem and curious about finding where it’s gone, this web guide offers resources to locate it, focusing particular attention on amateur poetry anthologies.