Old Dominion University
October 8-10, 1991
Philip Levine's fourteenth book of poetry, What Work Is, was published this spring. Perhaps the title of this most recent collection summarizes much of what is central to his remarkable poetry. Most of his work concentrates on the working class, particularly those auto workers in Detroit with whom he is so familiar. His poetry has been a search to find a voice for the voiceless. As he explained in Detroit Magazine, "In terms of the literature of the United States they weren't being heard. Nobody was speaking for them. And as young people will, you know, I took this foolish vow that I would speak for them and that's what my life would be. And sure enough I've gone and done it. Or I've tried anyway...I just hope I have the strength to carry it all the way through."
Levine has won an assortment of awards, from a Notable Book Award given by the Library Association to the National Book Critics Award. He has read poetry at the Library of Congress, been an adviser to the Academy of American Poets, and has been named an outstanding lecturer by California State University.
According to the New York Times, Levine has become "the elegist of lost souls beaten down by forces they could not understand or control." Joyce Carol Oates said in American Poetry Review, "He is one of those poets whose work is so emotionally intense, and yet so controlled, so concentrated, that the accumulative effect of reading a number of his related poems can be shattering." The Literary Festival will conclude Thursday, October 10, at 8 p.m. when Philip Levine will give a dual reading with Virginia poet Henry Taylor in Mills Godwin Auditorium. [extracted from 1991 brochure]