Philip Levine was named the Poet Laureate of the United States this week, a choice that has been widely lauded. I must admit that for some years I’ve questioned the esteemed poet’s status, or more pertinently, his authenticity. My doubts, however, were dispelled by one short but memorable encounter.
From his first book on, Levine made himself known as a “blue collar” poet. Reading some of his poems, you might think that he worked at a factory all of his life. In fact, not only did he attend college, but in his mid-20s began an M.A. program and shortly thereafter became a professor of creative writing — which is what he’s been doing since.