Former poet laureate Philip Levine spoke directly to the American everyman

February 18, 2015 1:12 PM

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Philip Levine, the former U.S. poet laureate who died of pancreatic cancer on Saturday at 87, was not a poet to everyone's taste. Born and raised in Detroit, he was called by poet and critic Edward Hirsch "a large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland," but he was also criticized for producing prose with line breaks, a reference to the apparent simplicity of his writing, which was clear and forceful, and generally returned to a handful of themes.

These themes were autobiographical, and they were also social, often involving the experience of the factory and the assembly line. "Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour; / Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears / Which might have served to grind their eulogy," he closed his poem "A...

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