Philip Levine

Fresno State News

U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine died on Saturday at his home in Fresno. He was age 87. The former Fresno State professor was known as the poet of the working class, and drew inspiration from his time working in the auto industry in his native Detroit and from the San Joaquin Valley, which he called home for nearly 60 years.

Levine took pride in bringing stories of physical labor in America to the world of poetry. Poet Peter Everwine was a close friend and colleague.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we speak with Fresno State Political Science Professor Jeff Cummins about California politics and his new book "Boom and Bust: The Politics of the California Budget."

Benjamin Boone

Fresno jazz artist, educator and composer Benjamin Boone has embarked on a fascinating new musical journey: mixing his music with the poems of former Poet Laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Levine. 

Levine, who is a longtime Fresno resident is among the nation's most revered poets. He's also a big jazz fan, dating back to his youth in Detroit. In fact, many of his poems reference jazz, including iconic stars like Clifford Brown and John Coltrane. 

Last week the Library of Congress named Fresno poet Philip Levine the nation’s 18th Poet Laureate. A native of Detroit, Levine moved to Fresno in the 1950’s to teach English at Fresno State, where he founded the university’s creative writing program, and helped foster the San Joaquin Valley’s rich poetry community. In 1991 his collection "What Work Is" won the National Book Award, and in 1995, his book "The Simple Truth" was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the shortage of physicians in the rural communities of the Central Valley. We also look at how charter schools are working to provide innovation in education in the valley. We also have an in-depth interview with the newly named Poet Laureate of the United States, Fresno's Philip Levine.

America has a new poet laureate today, as the Library of Congress names Philip Levine in the one-year position. He will succeed W.S. Merwin in the post. Born in Detroit in 1928, Levine has used his poetry to examine blue-collar life, often embroidering everyday events with a sense of myth.