My lost poets A life in poetry

Philip Levine, 1928-2015

Book - 2016

"Essays, speeches, and journal entries from one of our most admired and best-loved poets that illuminate how he came to understand himself as a poet, the events and people that he wrote about, and the older poets who influenced him"--

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2016.
Main Author
Philip Levine, 1928-2015 (author)
First Edition
Physical Description
210 pages ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
  • My lost poets
  • Nobody's Detroit
  • On finding William Carlos Williams and my poetry
  • Detroit jazz in the late forties and early fifties
  • A history of my befuddlement
  • A day in May
  • A means of transport: George Hitchcock and kayak
  • The Spanish Civil War in poetry
  • In the next world: the poetry of Roberta Spear
  • Getting and spending.
Review by Booklist Review

This collection of warmhearted, robustly beautiful autobiographical essays, many originally delivered as lectures, pulses with poems because the much-revered Levine lived and breathed poetry as a poet and a teacher. Crisply rendered memories and observations are conveyed with abiding tenderness, self-deprecation, sharp humor, and steely lyricism, all shaped by his profound thankfulness for his guiding lights, his lost poets. Levine looks back to his fatherless boyhood in Detroit and recalls how, at 14, he found himself writing in the dark in every sense of the phrase. He worked in automobile factories, then attended college, determined to escape the industrial grind. There he found kindred spirits, aspiring and inspiring poet-comrades, powerfully soulful people whom he vividly portrays. He tells richly nuanced, often wild tales of his crucial relationships with Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Thom Gunn. Some of Levine's lost poets are jazz musicians, and Detroit past and present is also a muse of infinite resonance. This is vital and affecting testimony to what it means to live as a poet in a largely indifferent, relentlessly churning world.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The last completed book from the late Levine (News of the World), a former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner, collects original and previously published essays that revolve around artistic development-the poems and poets that shaped Levine's distinct voice-as well as the circumstances that eventually led to his celebrated vocation. Though there is a chronology to the organization of the chapters, they can just as easily stand on their own as individual works; for example, the final chapter, a reading of Keats and Whitman, reads more like a critical essay than a memoir. Unsurprisingly, Levine's prose is often poetic, from his earliest recollections of composing poems in the "double dark" to his reminiscence of jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown and his music: "pure, free, clear, as water was in my early years." Levine writes at one point of how a poem hits first "in the gut" and then in the intellect, and his descriptions of his life, brimming with nostalgia and imagination, operate similarly. Like so many of Levine's poems, this book evinces a commitment to evoking hard-won experience and bringing it to lyric life. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Levine's (1928-2015) poetry is intense, stirring, and fiercely powerful. This collection of ten prose pieces offers a rambling, sometimes boisterous, evocation of how Levine came to be a poet, and most effectively, an informal reminiscence on the poets who shaped his work and his soul. Most of the writings started as talks and have the informal, slightly digressive feel of a public address. The title piece may be the most accessible to the general reader. An autobiographical sketch, it describes (obliquely) Levine's discovery of poetry, his gift for the craft, and the young and long-forgotten writers who inspired, challenged, and breathed the life of verse into him. What is most fascinating about much of this book is the balancing act between melancholy and the thrill of discovery-a sensation found both in the text and echoing in the reader as the book is closed, as the memory of so many lost poets remains. VERDICT Though this work may have limited appeal for general readers, it belongs in every library where the poetry collection matters-and that should be every library.-Herman Sutter, St. Agnes Acad., Houston © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

One of our finest poets recalls a life well lived in poetry.A former American Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, Levine (News of the World, 2009, etc.) was in the process of finishing this sparkling collection of essays and lectures when he died (1928-2015). His good friend and fellow poet Edward Hirsch helped to complete the project. In the title piece, which Hirsch calls one of the great textured descriptions of a writer finding his vocation, Levine describes in loving detail discovering a group of fellow aspiring poets at Detroits Wayne University, where he read and wrote poetry with a small group of enthusiastic, like-minded undergraduates. Where would I have been without all of themthe poets he discovered and the friends who shared with me their faith in the power of the perfect words. In a piece on the influence his master, Williams Carlos Williams, had on his early career, Levine acknowledges that Williams poems, written in the spoken language of my country, turned him away from his English masters toward the effort to create a poetry original and audacious enough to be American. Great poets dont always make great teachers. Levine attended the University of Iowa in the fall of 1953 and took Robert Lowells class. Lowell taught badly, and students started dropping out. John Berryman, on the other hand, captivated the students: Never again would I encounter so great a poem [by Dylan Thomas] so perfectly presented. The book is full of scintillating remembrances of fellow poets. Berryman could be both brilliant and candid, but Thom Gunn had an aura, a sort of inner beauty that was manifest in all of his actions. Levine also speaks lovingly of his mentor and friend George Hitchcock and his seminal literary magazine, kayak, and his piece on little-known Roberta Spear, who died young, will have readers rushing to her work. Like his poetry, Levines essays are generous, honest, and real. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.