There’s a new US Poet Laureate — Philip Levine. This may not be earth-shaking to many, but to a poet, whose vanity plate gives her ‘POETIC’ license, it’s HUGE .
And I like Levine’s work. I never like all of someone’s work — not even my own . And Levine’s mentor was a poet I’m pretty ambivalent about ~ John Berryman. As I told colleagues the other day, sometimes Berryman is breathtaking. Other times, I wonder why he bothered…
So what does this have to do w/ beginner’s heart, w/ love, w/ anything besides poetry? Well, for me Levine returns poetry to the hip pocket of average Americans. He’s not Billy Collins, whom many academics abhor (I love him, just FYI ). But he writes about tangibles as well as intangibles; he tells stories.
We need poetry. We need the time it takes to read it, let it in, feel it expand the way light fills up a room. And we need poets like Levine, who worked industrial jobs, like the one he had at a gear & axle factory. Poets who can make poetic sense out of the literal nuts and bolts of our everyday lives. Levine’s written that he wanted to make sense out of his own life, so he wrote. But he also said that he believed that if he could write poetry from his own life, it would somehow transform the experiences. Poetry can do that. It’s one reason we need more poets.
Sometimes when you live in the buckle of the Bible belt, people ask you what your religion is. And sometimes, no matter what you answer, it won’t be what they want to hear . So I often answer ‘poetry.’ Poetry is my religion. The focusing of it. The observation of it. The optimism you have to have to commit yourself to such an outré passion. The way it requires you to try to move into someone else’s heart. All of these strike me as profoundly important, even spiritual.
In other words? I believe in poetry. And Philip Levine ~