This Wednesday the Library of Congress announced that Philip Levine will be nation’s next Poet Laureate. Not trying to brag, but Levine, one of the country’s most celebrated poets, is a former board member of American Rights at Work. His 1991 collection, What Work Is, won a National Book Award, and he was awarded with a Pulitzer Prize in 1995.
As Levine told the Associated Press after receiving the news, he identifies with working Americans, not the literary or political elite,.“[A]t first I thought, ‘This is not you. You’re an old union man.’”
Levine grew up in an immigrant household in Detroit, where he worked at a number of blue collar jobs, and has long been an advocate for workers’ rights. Levine says he plans to use his new platform to bring greater attention to working America.
I would like to bring attention to the kind of people I’ve written about.
The lives of working people have been Levine’s primary subject throughout his long career, which stretches back to the 1950s. As Dwight Garner wrote in The New York Times, Levine’s work, unlike so much other contemporary literature, is full of everyday people. Elizabeth Lund, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, praised Levine’s appointment, calling him a “proletarian poet” who can serve as a “much-needed hero for … millions of Americans who wonder if the whole world is spinning out of control, taking their money and dreams along with it.”
Hopefully, our politicians follow Levine’s lead and bring middle class Americans back into focus—where they belong.