Philip Levine, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose intimate portraits of blue-collar life were grounded in personal experience and political conscience, died on Saturday. He was 87.
Levine, the US poet laureate in 2011 and 2012, died at his home in Fresno, California, of pancreatic and liver cancer, his wife said on Sunday.
A native of Detroit and son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Levine was profoundly shaped by his working-class childhood and years spent in jobs ranging from driving a truck to assembling parts at a Chevrolet plant.
Although he taught in several colleges, he had little in common with the academic poets of his time. He was not abstract or insular or digressive. He consciously modeled himself after Walt Whitman as a poet of everyday experience and cosmic wonder, writing tactile, conversational poems about his childhood, living in Spain, marriage and parenting and poetry itself.
“We’ve lost a great presence in American poetry,” said Edward Hirsch, a friend of Levine and president of the Guggenheim Foundation.