Students in the spring semester’s Poetry Workshop, along with their professor, Liz Abrams-Morley, had the opportunity and the pleasure to spend an evening with the current Poet Laureate of the United States, Philip Levine, on Tuesday, April 17th at the main branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. Mr. Levine, whose book What Work Is was studied by the class, appeared as a guest lecturer at the 2012 Philadelphia Book Festival.
The goal of this remarkable poet, who was appointed Poet Laureate at the age of 83, is, “to bring poetry to people who have no idea how relevant poetry is to their lives.” He was born in Detroit and went to work in the automobile plants at age 14, where he would recite poetry to himself in the noise of the factory without being noticed by his fellow workers. He said that he wanted to give voice to the voiceless, the working class, whose hands built the great American automobile industry, dominant in the world for the past century.
He loved the language and the fact that he “could memorize poems, carry them with him, recite them and live with them.” He immortalized the blue-collar worker whom he describes as, “someone with brains, feelings and a free-wheeling imagination that constantly fights to free him from his prosaic environment” (New York Times Book Review).
Besides being an award-winning poet, Mr. Levine is an accomplished storyteller, and he delighted the audience with his humorous introductions to each of his selected poems. It was a memorable hour spent with a literary giant and one that these fortunate students will cherish as they pursue their dreams of writing and perfecting their poetry. They are grateful to Professor Abrams-Morley for her foresight in obtaining tickets to the event early in the semester.
Elisa Sheronas earned her bachelor of arts degree from Rosemont College in 1965. She is currently enrolled in the graduate creative writing program.