Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Library of Congress names Philip Levine the new U.S. Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress announced today that Philip Levine, who is "best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit" (New York Times quote), is to be the next poet laureate, succeeding W. S. Merwin.

Congratulations to Mr. Levine, one of wyomingarts' favorite poets.

Here's part of the statement issued today by the Library of Congress:

"Philip Levine is one of America's great narrative poets," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement. "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."

In "Drum," Levine writes of a "Tool & Die" shop and of the men who "sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside for a final smoke." In "Coming Close," he presents a "quiet woman" standing for hours before a polishing wheel. But who is she, really? Levine asks. "You must come closer to find out."

You must hang your tie
and jacket in one of the lockers
in favor of a black smock, you must
be prepared to spend shift after shift
hauling off the metal trays of stock
bowing first, knees bent for a purchase
then lifting with a gasp, the first word
tenderness between the two of you

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