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Stranger to Nothing

Stranger to Nothing

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Philip Levine is the authentic voice of America's urban poor. Born in 1928, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he spent his early years doing a succession of heavy labouring jobs. Trying to write poetry "for people for whom there is no poetry", he chronicled the lives of the people he grew up with and worked with in Detroit: "Their presence seemed utterly lacking in the poetry I inherited at age 20, so I've spent the last 40-some years trying to add to our poetry what wasn't there."

Much of his poetry addresses the joys and sufferings of industrial life, with radiant feeling as well as painful irony: "It took me a long time to be able to write about it without snarling or snapping. I had to temper the violence I felt toward those who maimed and cheated me with a tenderness toward those who had touched and blessed me."

Always a poet of memory and invention, Philip Levine has continually written poems which search for universal truths. His plain-speaking poetry is a testament to the durability of love, the strength of the human spirit and the persistence of life in the face of death.

"Levine's poetic vision, nearly religious, transcends class, transcends natural boundaries, and transcends timeÖ Masterly."
Peter Davison, Atlantic Monthly

"What I particularly admire about Mr Levine's work is its great emotional riskiness, its large, deeply felt commitmentsÖ In a reactionary and forgetful time these radiantly human and memorialising poems can help us understand our lives."
Edward Hirsch, New York Times Book Review

"Levine is a revelation and a rarityÖ As with Whitman, this is democratic art that does not slum."
Philadelphia Inquirer