18th Poet Laureate Of The United States Speaks At UTEP Next Week

Mar 7, 2013

  President Diana Natalicio, the College of Liberal Arts Honors Program, and the Creative Writing Department at UTEP are proud to present a Centennial Lecture by Philip Levine, the 18th Poet Laureate of the United States. The event takes place on Tuesday, March 12, at 5 p.m. in the Undergraduate Learning Center (UGLC), room 106. It is free and open to the public.

Levine’s talk is titled “American Labor: Poetry for Whom There is No Poetry.” A reception with the writer will follow his lecture.

“Philip Levine is one of our nation’s best living writers not only because of how powerfully, forcefully, and compassionately he writes, but because of who he chooses to write about — the immigrant, the working, and the disempowered,” said Sasha Pimentel, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Creative Writing. “For him, it’s precisely the historically voiceless who demand the best voice in poetry and literature. He writes in a way that I, as an immigrant and as a resident of the border, can recognize as home, and I hope in his work, the UTEP and El Paso community can find a sort of home too.”

Michael Topp, Ph.D., associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the Liberal Arts Honors Program (LAHP) was pleased and proud to host Phil Levine along with the President’s Office and the Department of Creative Writing.

“This is the LAHP’s first big public event and we are honored to be able to host Phil, not only because he has won so much acclaim and so many awards, but because everyone needs more poetry in their lives,” Topp said.

Levine was born in 1928 in Detroit to Russian-Jewish immigrants and is known as the poet of the working class. Author of 20 collections of poetry, some of his most notable works are The Simple Truth, which won the Pulitzer Prize; What Work Is, which won the National Book Award; Ashes: Poems New and Old, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the American Book Award; and The Names of the Lost, which won the Lenore Marshall Prize.

He was 83 when he was named United States Poet Laureate in 2011, making him one of the oldest laureates. Upon his appointment, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, "Philip Levine is one of America's great narrative poets. His plainspoken lyricism has, for half a century, championed the art of telling 'The Simple Truth.'"

Levine has taught as writer and professor at universities including Columbia, Princeton, Brown, and mostly at California State University Fresno and New York University.

According to Edward Hirsch of the New York Times Book Review, Levine should be considered "one of [America's]...quintessentially urban poets." The New York Times also said, "What gives Levine's work its urgency 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 can be heard reading from his work on NPR’s Fresh Air at this link.

In 2014, The University of Texas at El Paso will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1914 as the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy. The Centennial Lecture Series invites noteworthy speakers to the UTEP campus to share their perspectives on a broad range of contemporary issues that are likely to impact our society, culture, and lives in the years ahead.