5 Great Poems By Philip Levine, Who Found Magic In Everyday Life

Philip Levine, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Poet Laureate of the United States, died Saturday at age 87. His early life in Detroit and his work on the auto assembly line inspired much of his poetry, which focused heavily on working-class middle America. He was, in the words of the New York Times Dwight Garner, “an outsider archiving the forgotten,” a man who gave a voice to the hard workers who make the country move. What’s most striking about Levine’s work is its focus on the beauty in simple, sometimes monotonous everyday experiences. The lives of the rich and famous are fun to watch, but sometimes just as much poignancy can be found in the average day of an average person. As I delve deeper into New York City life and into a sometimes loud, attention-seeking world here that is so very different than the one my family came from (not that I don’t love it), Levine’s work is a reminder to keep sight of what really matters — whatever that may be to each of us. He said it best when he told NPR, “Don’t scorn your life just because it’s not dramatic, or it’s impoverished, or it looks dull, or it’s workaday. Don’t scorn it. It is where poetry’s taking place if you’ve got the sensitivity to see it.” Press play on these five beloved poems of his and allow them to add some extra vibrancy to your day.

“What Work Is” (recited by Morgan Williams)

“Gin”

“Starlight”

“Gospel”

“A New Day”

[Image via Shutterstock]