In the fall of 1991, in my junior year at Stanford, I happened to see a flyer on campus for a reading by Philip Levine. My only brush with poetry before college had been the ill-fated impetus to answer an essay question on my application for early acceptance to Harvard with rhyming couplets.
“Needless to say, that hopeless bard / never walked to class through Harvard Yard.”
Fortunately, my vain experiment in verse hadn’t stopped me from taking a workshop my sophomore year at Stanford, which left me with just enough of a bite from the poetry bug to want to continue.
But then a permanent infection set in thanks to Philip Levine. Having never heard of him before that night in Kresge Auditorium, I was riveted by the voice in his National Book Award-winning What Work Is, his New Selected Poems sharing the stage for having been published that same year.