By Paul Mariani
Note: We asked the author, one of Image’s editorial advisors, to write a tribute to his longtime friend, the late poet Philip Levine.
It was at the Breadloaf Writers Conference back in the late 1980s that I first met Phil Levine. The summer before, Bob Pack had asked me for the names of some poets whom he might invite to the conference, and I mentioned how great it would be to invite Phil.
I was deeply drawn to Phil’s poetry for a number of reasons—his working-class background growing up in Detroit, much like my own growing up in Mineola, Long Island, the way he wrote about people in factories or in diners or at bus stops which most poets overlooked or disregarded, though certainly Walt Whitman had sung of them, as had Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams and Charles Olson and Muriel Rukeyser and Theodore Roethke. Anyway, that was a big part of the draw.