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Philip Levine Portrait

Born in Detroit, Michigan, and educated at Wayne State University, Levine later studied at Iowa with Robert Lowell and John Berryman. Along the way, he took a number of working-class jobs; those, and the ruined industrial landscape of Detroit, helped shaped the settings and political loyalties of his poems. We can see that background most clearly in "Belle Isle, 1949" and "Fear and Fame," but it also underlies the slaughterhouse imagery of "Animals Are Passing From Our Lives" and the revolutionary transfiguration of vernacular language in what is very nearly his signature poem, "They Feed They Lion." For years, Levine has looked to modern Spanish poets for inspiration, and he has written a number of poems about the Spanish Civil War (including "Francisco, I'll Bring You Red Carnations"), often embodying his special sympathy for the Spanish anarchist movement. Although Levine's work is pervaded by an eloquent rage at injustice, it also reaches repeatedly for a visionary lyricism that Levine's subject matter makes uniquely his own.