By MARGALIT FOX
Mr. Levine’s work was vibrantly, angrily and often painfully alive with the sound, smell and sinew of heavy manual labor.
Philip Levine, a former United States poet laureate whose work was vibrantly, angrily and often painfully alive with the sound, smell and sinew of heavy manual labor, died on Saturday morning at his home in Fresno, Calif. He was 87.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Christopher Buckley, a longtime friend and fellow poet.
Mr. Levine served as poet laureate from 2011 to 2012. He received a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for his collection “The Simple Truth” and won two National Book Awards — in 1980 for “Ashes: Poems New & Old” and 1991 for “What Work Is.” His poetry appeared often in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine and other major publications.
At his death, he was an emeritus professor of English at California State University, Fresno, where he had taught from 1958 to 1992.
In spare, realistic free verse, Mr. Levine explored the subjects that had long animated his work: his gritty Detroit childhood; the soul-numbing factory jobs he held as a youth; Spain, where he lived for some time as an adult; and the Spanish anarchists of the 1930s, a personal passion since he was a boy.
These were themes with which few American poets were concerning themselves when his first collection, “On the Edge,” appeared in 1961. “A large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland” is how the poet Edward Hirsch, writing in The New York Times Book Review, described Mr. Levine in 1984.
In his poem “Coming Home, Detroit, 1968,” for instance, Mr. Levine wrote:
A winter Tuesday, the city pouring fire,
Ford Rouge sulfurs the sun, Cadillac, Lincoln,
Chevy gray. The fat stacks
of breweries hold their tongues. Rags,
papers, hands, the stems of birches
dirtied with words.
His work was not to every critic’s taste. Because of its strong narrative thrust, frequent autobiographical bent and tendency to shun conventional poetic devices, some reviewers dismissed it as merely prose with line breaks. Others found monotony in his revisiting the same themes again and again.
But many admired his deceptively simple style, which could belie the carefully worked out cadences beneath its colloquial surface. They also praised Mr. Levine’s unabashed use of poetry as a vehicle for radical social criticism, noting his frank explorations of the nature of masculinity and his cleareyed depictions of working-class lives and the immigrant Jewish experience.
Reviewing his collection “1933” in The New York Review of Books in 1975, Robert Mazzocco wrote, “He can create the sense of a milieu, the sound, feel, geography of a place, a time, a people, the flavor of what’s been happening among us and what continues to happen, which seem to me almost totally lacking in most other serious poetry today.”
Philip Levine was born in Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit on Jan. 10, 1928. It was a metrically auspicious birth date — the spondee “ONE, TEN” resounding like slaps on a baby’s bottom, the anapest “twenty-EIGHT” hurtling toward the future. Mr. Levine would use the date in a poem, “Let Me Begin Again”:
The sailors have stumbled
off toward the bars or the bright houses.
The captain closes his log and falls asleep.
1/10’28. Tonight I shall enter my life
after being at sea for ages, quietly,
in a hospital named for an automobile.
Mr. Levine’s parents were Russian Jewish immigrants without much money. As he later said, his childhood was shaped by several signal events, among them the Depression, the death of his father when Philip was 5 and an infatuation with poetry that began when he was in his teens.
Another event was the Spanish Civil War, in which many of young Mr. Levine’s ardent anti-fascist neighbors went off to fight and from which not all of them came back. The experience would inform many of his poems, including one of his most famous, “Francisco, I’ll Bring You Red Carnations.” Collected in “7 Years From Somewhere” (1979), the poem is an elegy for the anarchist leader Francisco Ascaso, who was killed in the fighting in Barcelona in 1936. It reads in part:
Here in the great cemetery
behind the fortress of Barcelona
I have come once more to see
the graves of my fallen. ...
For two there are floral
displays, but Ascaso faces
eternity with only a stone.
Maybe as it should be. He was
a stone, a stone and a blade,
the first grinding and sharpening
Starting at 14, Mr. Levine held a series of industrial jobs: working in a soap factory, hefting cases of soft drinks at a bottling plant, manning a punch press at Chevrolet Gear and Axle and operating a jackhammer at Detroit Transmission. A great many poems sprang from this experience, including “Growth,” from “What Work Is,” which opens:
In the soap factory where I worked
when I was fourteen, I spoke to
no one and only one man spoke
to me and then to command me
to wheel the little cars of damp chips
into the ovens. While the chips dried
I made more racks, nailing together
wood lath and ordinary screening
you’d use to keep flies out, racks
and more racks each long afternoon,
for this was a growing business
in a year of growth.
Mr. Levine was the first member of his family to earn a college degree. “When I turned college age I had to make a decision about what I was going to do about my life,” he told the novelist Mona Simpson in a 1988 interview in The Paris Review. “My high school teachers encouraged me to go to college. I stood in line at Wayne State University to enroll, and when I got up to the head of the line, this woman said, ‘Can I help you?’ “I said, ‘I’d like to go to college.’ She said, ‘Do you want a bachelor’s?’
“I said, ‘I already have a place to live.’ Because to me a bachelor’s was a small apartment.”
At Wayne University, as it was then known, Mr. Levine fell in love with modern poetry, receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English there. In 1957 he earned a master of fine arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where his mentors included the distinguished poet John Berryman; Mr. Levine included a moving portrait of Mr. Berryman in his collection of autobiographical essays, “The Bread of Time” (1994).
Mr. Levine, who was also a regular guest instructor at New York University, had homes in Fresno and Brooklyn. He is survived his wife, Frances J. Artley; three sons, Mark, John and Teddy; a twin brother, Edward; another brother, Eli; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
His other volumes of poetry include “Not This Pig” (1968), “They Feed They Lion” (1972), “A Walk With Tom Jefferson” (1988), “The Mercy” (1999) and “Breath” (2004). He also edited an anthology, “The Essential Keats” (1987).
Among his other honors are the 1977 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for “The Names of the Lost”; the 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award for “Ashes” and “7 Years From Somewhere,” both published that year; and the 1987 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation for his body of work.
In a 1977 radio conversation with Studs Terkel, reproduced in “Don’t Ask” (1981), a collection of interviews with Mr. Levine, the poet spoke of the influence of his blue-collar background on his later career.
“It was at an early age, while I was working in factories and also trying to write,” Mr. Levine said. “I said to myself, ‘Nobody is writing the poetry of this world here; it doesn’t exist!’ And it didn’t. You couldn’t find it.” He continued: “I took a vow that I was going to do it, and goddamn it, it didn’t matter how long it was going to take. I was going to write the poetry of these people because they weren’t going to do it. And it was very funny, when my fellow workers would say, you know, ‘What do you do?’ and I would say, ‘I write poetry,’ nobody laughed at me.”
Correction: February 15, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary, using information from a friend of Mr. Levine’s, misspelled the given name of one of Mr. Levine’s sons, who survives him. He is John, not Jon.
An Appraisal: The Poet Philip Levine, an Outsider Archiving the Forgotten
By DWIGHT GARNERFEB. 15, 2015
Della and Tatum, Sweet Pea and Packy, Ida and Cal. You met a lot of unpretentious people in Philip Levine’s spare, ironic poems of the industrial heartland. Mr. Levine had toiled in auto plants as a young man. “I saw that the people that I was working with,” he told Detroit Magazine, “were voiceless in a way.”
Mr. Levine’s death is a serious blow for American poetry, in part because he so vividly evoked the drudgery and hardships of working-class life in America, and in part because this didn’t pull his poetry down into brackishness.
He was a shrewd and very funny man. I’m not sure another major American poet could give advice quite like the following, from a poem called “Facts,” collected in Mr. Levine’s classic 1991 book “What Work Is”:
If you take a ’37 Packard grill and split it down
the center and reduce the angle by 18° and reweld it,
you’ll have a perfect grill for a Rolls Royce
just in case you ever need a new grill for yours.
Mr. Levine was among those poets, and there are not enough of these, whose words you followed even outside their poetry. His interviews, for example, were feasts for the mind. To get back to Della and Tatum, Sweet Pea and Packy, and Ida and Cal for a moment, here is what he told The Paris Review in 1988 about the unpeopling of American poetry:
“Except for the speaker, no one is there. There’s a lot of snow, a moose walks across the field, the trees darken, the sun begins to set, and a window opens. Maybe from a great distance you can see an old woman in a dark shawl carrying an unrecognizable bundle into the gathering gloom.”
When people do appear in poems, Mr. Levine added: “Their greatest terror is that they’ll become like their parents and maybe do something dreadful, like furnish the house in knotty pine.” This man was a thoroughbred moral comedian.
The best person you met in Mr. Levine’s poems was always, of course, Mr. Levine himself. His frequently short lines became instantly identifiable, and they had a muscular and deceptively simple sense of subterranean rhythm. His poem “The Fox” contains this potent observation:
I think I must have lived
Once before, not as a man or woman
But as a small, quick fox pursued
By ladies and gentlemen on horseback.
Mr. Levine was born in Detroit, was educated in public schools and went to college at Wayne State in Detroit. He held, he liked to say, a lot of “stupid jobs.” Those stupid jobs informed his sense of the way so many Americans live.
He won most of the big prizes: a Pulitzer, for “The Simple Truth” (1994); two National Book Awards, for “Ashes: Poems New and Old” (1979) and “What Work Is”; and a National Book Critics Circle Award for “Ashes” and for “7 Years From Somewhere” (1979). He was America’s poet laureate in 2011-12.
But he never shed his outsider sensibility, his awareness of class in American life. “I am now a kind of archive of people, places and things that no longer exist,” he said. “I carry them around with me, and if I get them on paper I give them at least some kind of existence.”
That archive of people, places and things informs his poem “1, 1, 2000,” a vivid Levine performance, which begins this way:
In Joe Priskulnick’s darkened kitchen the face
of Jesus appears on a dish towel, but no one’s awake
to bear witness. Next door to the fenced truck yard
behind my father’s grease shop where all time stopped
there’s a hive of activity. You’re thinking
the rats found a wolverine or the guard dogs
caught another kid strung out on crack. You’re thinking
two thousand years passed in the blink of an eye
and changed nothing, the eaters went on eating,
their crazed teeth clicking with delight.
As it happens, there are many crazed teeth clicking with delight in Mr. Levine’s poetry. He paid attention to human appetites for love, for sex, for dignity, for words, and frankly for something delicious to snack on late at night. His poem “Salt and Oils” begins, “In Havana in 1948 I ate fried dog/believing it was Peking Duck.”
Mr. Levine had a shrewd sense of his readership. “I published a lot of my poems in The New Yorker for many years, and I got the idea that my readers were really suburbanites who maybe on the train pick up the magazine, thinking I wonder what I’m going to get for dinner tonight— and then they see this poem,” he told The Atlantic Monthly in 1999. “I recognize that these are the hardest people to get — they’re deeply protected, they’ve survived in the zoo of New York, and they’re not going to let a goddamn poem upset their equanimity.”
Mr. Levine had a gift for upsetting people’s equanimity. Yet his matter-of-fact poems pushed past blunt force and pat observation. Loss and regret, in his verse, carry tinctures of wildness and joy and sharp intellect.
Come as you are, this important and emotionally committed poet told us. We’ll figure it out together, Sweet Peas, in something like real time.
Frances LevinePhilip Levine was one of the leading poetic voices of his generation, “a large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland,” according to Edward Hirsch. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Levine was born and raised in industrial Detroit, where he began working in the auto factories at the age of 14. As a young boy in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, he was fascinated by the events of the Spanish Civil War. His heroes were not only those individuals who struggled against fascism but also ordinary folks who worked at hopeless jobs simply to stave off poverty. Noted for his interest in the grim reality of blue-collar work and workers, Levine resolved “to find a voice for the voiceless” while working in the auto plants of Detroit during the 1950s. “I saw that the people that I was working with … were voiceless in a way,” he explained in Detroit Magazine. “In terms of the literature of the United States they weren’t being heard. Nobody was speaking for them. And as young people will, you know, I took this foolish vow that I would speak for them and that’s what my life would be. And sure enough I’ve gone and done it. Or I’ve tried anyway.”
Levine earned his BA from Wayne State University in 1950 and began attending writing workshops at the University of Iowa, as an unregistered student, in 1953. He took classes with Robert Lowell and John Berryman, and would later pay tribute to Berryman's teaching influence on his development as a poet. Levine officially earned an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1957, and later that year won a Jones Fellowship at Stanford University. Shortly thereafter, he began teaching at the California State University, Fresno, where he would remain until 1992. Levine also taught at Columbia, Princeton, NYU, Brown, the University of California at Berkeley, and Tufts.
Though Levine did not return to live in Detroit, its people and economy would remain central concerns of his poetry. Critic Herbert Leibowitz, commenting on Levine’s 1980 National Book award and National Books Critics Circle award-winning collection Ashes: Poems New and Old, wrote: “Levine has returned again and again in his poems to the lives of factory workers trapped by poverty and the drudgery of the assembly line, which breaks the body and scars the spirit.” However, the speaker in Levine’s poems “is never a blue-collar caricature,” argued Richard Tillinghast in his New York Times Book Review piece, “but someone with brains, feelings and a free-wheeling imagination that constantly fights to free him from his prosaic environment.” In addition to concentrating on the working class in his work, Levine paid tribute to the Spanish anarchist movement of the 1930s, especially in The Names of the Lost (1976).In his book, The Fierce Embrace: A Study of Contemporary American Poetry,Charles Molesworth explained that Levine connected the Spanish revolutionaries with Detroit’s laboring class during a brooding stay in Barcelona: “Both cities are built on the backs of sullen, exploited workers, and the faded revolution in one smolders like the blunting, racist fear in the other.” As Leibowitz summed up, “The poet’s ‘Spanish self,’ as he calls it, is kin to his Detroit self. Both bear witness to the visionary ideal destroyed.”
Critics have described Levine’s work as dark and unflinching. Time contributor Paul Gray called Levine’s speakers “guerrillas, trapped in an endless battle long after the war is lost.” This sense of defeat is particularly strong when the poet recalls scenes from his Detroit childhood, where unemployment and violence colored his life. But despite its painful material, Levine’s verse can also display a certain joyfulness, suggested Marie Borroff. Writing in the Yale Review, she described the title poem ofThey Feed They Lion (1972) as “a litany celebrating, in rhythms and images of unflagging, piston-like force, the majestic strength of the oppressed, rising equally out of the substances of the poisoned industrial landscape and the intangibles of humiliation.” Richard Hugo commented in the American Poetry Review: “Levine’s poems are important because in them we hear and we care.” Though Levine’s poems are full of loss, regret and inadequacy, Hugo felt that they also embody the triumphant potential of language and song. Levine has kept alive in himself “the impulse to sing,” Hugo concluded, adding that Levine “is destined to become one of the most celebrated poets of the time.”
Levine’s poetry for and about the common man is distinguished by simple diction and a rhythmic narrative style—by what Robert Pinsky once called “the strength of a living syntax.” In an American Poetry Review appraisal of Ashes (1979) and 7 Years from Somewhere (1979), contributor Dave Smith noted that in Levine’s poems “the language, the figures of speech, the narrative progressions are never so obscure, so truncated as to forbid less sophisticated readers. Though he takes on the largest subjects of death, love, courage, manhood, loyalty … he brings the mysteries of existence down into the ordinarily inarticulate events and objects of daily life.” Because Levine values reality above all in his poetry, his language is often earthy and direct, his syntax colloquial and his rhythms relaxed. Molesworth argued that Levine’s work reflects a mistrust of language; rather than compressing multiple meanings into individual words and phrases as in traditionally conceived poetry, Levine’s simple narratives work to reflect the concrete and matter-of-fact speech patterns of working people. Levine’s work was typically more concerned with the known, visible world than with his own perception of those phenomena, and this made it somewhat unique in the world of contemporary poetry. Levine himself, in an interview with Calvin Bedient forParnassus, defined his ideal poem as one in which “no words are noticed. You look through them into a vision of … the people, the place.”
Several critics faulted Levine for his reliance on narrative descriptions of realistic situations. However, Thomas Hackett, in his review of A Walk with Tom Jefferson(1988), argued that, rather than being a weakness, Levine’s “strength is the declarative, practically journalistic sentence. He is most visual and precise when he roots his voice in hard, earthy nouns.”
Levine’s ability to craft deeply affecting poems has long been his hallmark. “His poems are personal, love poems, poems of horror, poems about the experiencing of America,”Stephen Spender wrote in the New York Review of Books. Joyce Carol Oates commented of Levine in the American Poetry Review: “He is one of those poets whose work is so emotionally intense, and yet so controlled, so concentrated, that the accumulative effect of reading a number of his related poems can be shattering.” Oates dubbed Levine “a visionary of our dense, troubled mysterious time.” David Baker, writing about What Work Is (1991), said Levine has “one of our most resonant voices of social conviction and witness, and he speaks with a powerful clarity … What Work Ismay be one of the most important books of poetry of our time. Poem after poem confronts the terribly damaged conditions of American labor, whose circumstance has perhaps never been more wrecked.” The book won the National Book Award in 1991. His next book, The Simple Truth (1994), was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Levine explored the forces that shaped his life and poetry in The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography (1994), a collection of nine essays in which he addresses his experiences as a factory worker, his family and friends, the writers who served as his mentors and his fascination with the Spanish Civil War and Spanish poets. Levine’s portrayal of his mentors, John Berryman and Yvor Winters, garnered critical applause. Richard Eder, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, considered the essays on Berryman, Winters, and the Spanish poet Antonio Machado to be the strongest in the book. Through it all, added Tod Marshall in the Georgia Review, “the book’s main focus—much to the benefit and delight of anyone interested in the formative years of one of our best contemporary poets—is Levine’s relationship with poetry.”
Levine’s later books include The Mercy (1999), Breath (2004), and News of the World (2009). Breath was hailed by a Terrence Rafferty in the New York Times as a “graceful new collection” that showcases Levine’s unique brand of elegy, one that operates in long, thoughtful lines that summon the un-glorious past and its hard-working inhabitants. “What gives Levine’s work its urgency,” Rafferty went on “is that impulse to commemorate, the need to restore to life people who were never, despite their deadening work, dead things themselves, and who deserve to be rescued from the longer death of being forgotten.”
Levine won several other awards, including the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry and the Wallace Stevens Award. In 2006 he was elected a a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and in 2011 was appointed poet laureate of the United States. His poetry “will be remembered for his giving voice to the complicated lives of men and women and for making something closer to simple song than ordinary speech,” wrote the poet Carol Frost. “The territory of this poetry keeps coming back to a center—praise for the common person, an American, probably with immigrant parents, who having gotten ‘off the bus/at the bare junction of nothing/with nothing’ manages to find a way home.”
Levine retired from teaching at the California State University, Fresno in 1992. He split his time between Fresno and Brooklyn in his later years, before his death in early 2015.
Poet. Worked variously at industrial jobs, c. 1950s; University of Iowa, Iowa City, member of faculty, 1955-57; California State University, Fresno, professor of English, 1958-92; Tufts University, Medford, MA, professor of English, 1981-88. Elliston Professor of Poetry, University of Cincinnati, 1976; poet-in-residence, National University of Australia, Canberra, summer, 1978, and Vassar College; visiting professor of poetry, Columbia University, 1978, 1981, 1984, New York University, 1984 and 1991, and Brown University, 1985; teacher at Princeton University, Columbia University, Squaw Valley Writers Community, Bread Loaf, and Midnight Sun. Has read his poetry at the Library of Congress, Poetry Center of San Francisco, Pasadena Art Gallery, Guggenheim Museum, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University of California, Stanford University, Wayne State University, University of Iowa, San Francisco State University, Harvard University, Yale University, Brown University, and other schools. Chair of literature board, National Endowment for the Arts, 1984-85.
- On the Edge (limited edition), Stone Wall Press (Iowa City, IA), 1961, second edition, 1963.
- Silent in America: Vivas for Those Who Failed (limited edition), Shaw Avenue Press (Iowa City, IA), 1965.
- Not This Pig, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1968.
- 5 Detroits, Unicorn Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1970.
- Thistles: A Poem Sequence (limited edition), Turret Books (London, England), 1970.
- Pili's Wall, Unicorn Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1971, second edition, 1980.
- Red Dust, illustrated by Marcia Mann, Kayak (Santa Cruz, CA), 1971.
- They Feed They Lion, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
- 1933, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1974.
- New Season (pamphlet), Graywolf Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1975.
- On the Edge and Over: Poems Old, Lost, and New, Cloud Marauder (Oakland, CA), 1976.
- The Names of the Lost (limited edition), Windhover Press (Iowa City, IA), 1976, 2nd edition, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1976.
- 7 Years from Somewhere, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.
- Ashes: Poems New and Old, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.
- One for the Rose, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1981.
- Selected Poems, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.
- Sweet Will, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.
- A Walk with Tom Jefferson, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
- New Selected Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
- What Work Is, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
- The Simple Truth, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
- Unselected Poems, Greenhouse Review Press (Santa Cruz, CA), 1997.
- The Mercy, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
- Breath: Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
- News of the World, Knopf (New York, NY), 2009.
- Don't Ask (interviews), University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1981.
- (With Orlando Patterson and Norman Rush) Earth, Stars, and Writers (lectures), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1992.
- The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography (memoir), Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
- So Ask: Essays, Conversations, and Interviews, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2002.
- (With Henri Coulette) Character and Crisis: A Contemporary Reader, McGraw (New York, NY), 1966.
- (And translator with Ernesto Trejo) Jaime Sabines, Tarumba: The Selected Poems of Jaime Sabines, Twin Peaks Press (San Francisco, CA), 1979.
- (With Ada Long, and translator) Gloria Fuertes, Off the Map: Selected Poems, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1984.
- (With D. Wojahn and B. Henderson) The Pushcart Prize XI, Pushcart (Wainscott, NY), 1986.
- (Selector and author of introduction) The Essential Keats, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1987.
- (Author of introduction) Dennis Sampson, Forgiveness, Milkweed Editions, 1990.
- (Author of foreword) Larry Levis, Elegy, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1997.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.
- Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, Volume 3, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
- Mills, Ralph J. Jr., Cry of the Human: Essays on Contemporary American Poetry, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1975.
- Molesworth, Charles, The Fierce Embrace: A Study of Contemporary American Poetry, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1979.
- On the Poetry of Philip Levine: Stranger to Nothing, edited by Christopher Buckley, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1991.
- America, January 13, 1996, p. 19; January 13, 1996, David Sofield, review of The Simple Truth, p. 19.
- American Poetry Review, November, 1972; May, 1973; March, 1974; May, 1974; May, 1977; November-December, 1979, pp. 36-37.
- Antioch Review, spring/summer, 1977; spring, 1982, David St. John, review of One for the Rose, pp. 225-234.
- Atlantic Monthly, April, 1999, review of The Mercy, p. 108.
- Bloomsbury Review, March, 1996, review of The Simple Truth, p. 24.
- Booklist, March 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of The Mercy, p. 1278.
- Boston Globe, February 2, 1994, p. 63.
- Carleton Miscellany, fall, 1968.
- Chelsea, number 65, 1998, review of Unselected Poems, p. 142.
- Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1994, sec. 5, p. 3.
- Chicago Tribune Book World, August 5, 1984.
- Commonweal, October 12, 1979.
- Detroit Magazine, February 26, 1978.
- Georgia Review, spring, 1980; winter, 1994, Tod Marshall, review of The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography, pp. 821-24.
- Harper's, January, 1980.
- Hudson Review, winter, 1979-80.
- Kenyon Review, fall, 1989; summer, 1992, David Baker, review of What Work Is, pp. 166-73.
- Library Journal, April 15, 1997, Steven Ellis, review of Unselected Poems, p. 85; March 15, 1999, Graham Christian, review of The Mercy, p. 83.
- Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1984; May 16, 1995, p. A1.
- Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 21, 1984, Clayton Eshleman, review of Selected Poems; September 8, 1991, p. 11; August 30, 1992, p. 6; January 16, 1994, Richard Eder, review of The Bread of Time, p. 3.
- Nation, February 2, 1980; December 30, 1991, p. 864.
- New Leader, January 17, 1977; August 13, 1979; December 27, 1993, Phoebe Pettingell, review of The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography, pp. 12-13.
- New York Review of Books, April 25, 1968; September 20, 1973; April 3, 1975; December 17, 1981, Helen Vendler, review of One for the Rose.
- New York Times, May 29, 1985.
- New York Times Book Review, July 16, 1972; February 20, 1977; October 7, 1979, Herbert Leibowitz, review ofAshes: Poems New and Old; September 12, 1982; August 5, 1984; December 8, 1991, p. 7; May 31, 1992, p. 28; February 20, 1994, Dana Gioia, review of The Bread of Time, p. 14; February 2, 1997, review of The Simple Truth,p. 28; April 18, 1999, Adam Kirsch, "Blue Collar Verse."
- New York Times Magazine, February 3, 1980.
- North American Review, November, 1998, review of Unselected Poems, p. 37.
- Parnassus, fall/ winter, 1972; fall/winter, 1974; fall/winter, 1977; spring/summer, 1978.
- Poetry, July, 1972; March, 1975; August, 1977; December, 1980; December, 1989; May, 1992, p. 94.
- Prairie Schooner, winter, 1974; summer, 1997, review of The Simple Truth, p. 179.
- Progressive, August, 1999, review of The Mercy, p. 44.
- Publishers Weekly, September 26, 1994, p. 58; November 7, 1994, p. 41; January 25, 1999, review of The Mercy,p. 90.
- Saturday Review, June 1, 1968; March 11, 1972; September 7, 1977.
- Sewanee Review, spring, 1976.
- Shenandoah, summer, 1972.
- Southern Review, spring, 1992; summer, 1999, review of The Mercy, p. 621,
- Time, June 25, 1979.
- Times Literary Supplement, September 11, 1981; July 2, 1982.
- Village Voice Literary Supplement, May, 1982; July 19, 1988, Thomas Hackett, review of A Walk with Tom Jefferson.
- Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1972; spring, 1995, pp. 64-65.
- Wall Street Journal, March 15, 1994, p. A18.
- Washington Post, February 14, 1994, p. D2.
- Washington Post Book World, August 5, 1984, Joel Canarroe, review of Selected Poems, p. 3.
- Western Humanities Review, autumn, 1972.
- World Literature Today, spring, 1995, Mary Kaiser, review of The Bread of Time, pp. 371-372; winter, 2002, David Rogers, review of The Mercy, p. 154.
- Yale Review, autumn, 1972, Marie Borroff, review of They Feed They Lion; autumn, 1980.
- Atlantic Unbound, http://www.atlantic.com/ (April 9, 1999), Wen Stephenson, "A Useful Poetry: An Interview with Philip Levine."