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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philip Levine will be the next US Poet Laureate

The next US Poet Laureate will be Philip Levine, the voice of the American industrial heartland.

The 83 year old writer reacted with natural humor to the news: it's like winning the Pulitzer; if you take it too seriously, you're an idiot; but if you look at the names of the other poets who have won it, most of them are damn good.

Here is one of his poems, An Abandoned Factory, Detroit:

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

(A Life in Books)


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