Old 02-16-2015, 12:05 AM   #1
Angeline
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RIP Philip Levine

The poet Philip Levine has died at 87. He was an American poet from Detroit with a distinctly 20th-century urban, industrial working-class kind of voice. You can read more about him here.

Post his poems here if you like.

What Work Is
Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
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. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.
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Old 02-16-2015, 03:08 PM   #2
greenmountaineer
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I liked his poetry. Apparently, some critics thought he wrote too much "tell" and not enough "show." I'd agree he was very descriptive, but he chronicled a blue collar world with a sharp language, which is the stock I come from. Maybe that's why I liked his poems.
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Old 02-16-2015, 04:47 PM   #3
Angeline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greenmountaineer View Post
I liked his poetry. Apparently, some critics thought he wrote too much "tell" and not enough "show." I'd agree he was very descriptive, but he chronicled a blue collar world with a sharp language, which is the stock I come from. Maybe that's why I liked his poems.
That's pretty much what I thought. Maybe too descriptive but kind of the Studs Terkel of poetry, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I can also see Levine in the tradition of Whitman and Sandburg.
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Old 02-16-2015, 09:56 PM   #4
UnderYourSpell
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I shall have to find a site that has his poetry on it so I can read more.
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Blessed are the cracked for it is they that let in the light
They say a smile is a gift which is free to the giver and precious to the recipient.
But giving the finger is free, too, and I find it more personal and sincere.
If at first you don't succeed....skydiving is not for you ....
If you don't pay your exorcist .... do you get repossessed?
I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.
....But I, being poor, have only my dreams, I have spread my dreams under your feet,Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.......
Nil Caborundum illigitimi
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Old 02-16-2015, 10:53 PM   #5
Senna Jawa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UnderYourSpell View Post
I shall have to find a site that has his poetry on it so I can read more.
Angeline has already provided a link (see "here") with Levine's biography. There was also on that page a link to his poetry:
POEMS BY PHILIP LEVINE
Let me also make Angeline's link more explicit:
Philip Levine, 1928-2015
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Old 02-16-2015, 11:14 PM   #6
Senna Jawa
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Baby Villon BY PHILIP LEVINE

Todski28, and the rest, you may read:
Baby Villon
BY PHILIP LEVINE
Just in case, for those who are not todsky, the poem is about a boxer, a professional prize fighter, who was rubbed by judges (boxing referees) on several occasions, meaning that the fighter would clearly win a fight but judges would falsely award the fight to the other boxer. The boxer, Baby Villon, was at his time rated 7th in the world by an international boxing federation despite the injustices.

(This is poetry. I didn't find any link to an actual boxer Baby Villon).

Last edited by Senna Jawa : 02-16-2015 at 11:26 PM.
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Old 02-16-2015, 11:41 PM   #7
Senna Jawa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Angeline View Post
That's pretty much what I thought. Maybe too descriptive but kind of the Studs Terkel of poetry, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I can also see Levine in the tradition of Whitman and Sandburg.
It sounds like there is a confusion about "show, not tell". From what I see so far, and it seems characteristic for Levine, he was very direct, not into explicit metaphors, similes and similar "decoration". But he was definitely not guilty of "tell".

Levine's images are literal but he was not spilling any opinions. Thus his poems are politically loaded, because life is politically loaded, but Levine in his poems was not any "politician", imposing any views on you, pushing them through your throat.

His poems were very specific.

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Old 02-17-2015, 12:04 AM   #8
Senna Jawa
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"A Woman Waking" by PHILIP LEVINE

A great poem. He was good! RIP.
"A Woman Waking" by PHILIP LEVINE
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Old 02-17-2015, 12:14 AM   #9
Senna Jawa
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An set of poems by Philip Levine

Philip Levine, poems
And don't stop here. There is also a link
Philip Levine, 108 poems (renditions)
Some poems there are listed more than once. Perhaps different readings (videos) are supplied.

Last edited by Senna Jawa : 02-17-2015 at 10:48 AM.
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Old 02-17-2015, 09:56 AM   #10
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Interesting excerpt from the NY Times

Mr. Levine was among those poets, and there are not enough of these, whose words you followed even outside their poetry. His interviews, for example, were feasts for the mind......here is what he told The Paris Review in 1988 about the unpeopling of American poetry:

“Except for the speaker, no one is there. There’s a lot of snow, a moose walks across the field, the trees darken, the sun begins to set, and a window opens. Maybe from a great distance you can see an old woman in a dark shawl carrying an unrecognizable bundle into the gathering gloom.”

When people do appear in poems, Mr. Levine added: “Their greatest terror is that they’ll become like their parents and maybe do something dreadful, like furnish the house in knotty pine.” This man was a thoroughbred moral comedian.
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