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"You might change someone’s life (read for the better) through a chance encounter as you walk to the corner store for bread. If you choose to teach the writing of poetry, however, you increase your chances of experiencing this privilege. But even within this category of poet-teacher, when it comes to changing lives, Philip Levine, by all accounts, has surpassed all probability. Gathered here are a handful of essays that speak of his (not always immediately appreciated) honesty, his commitment to poetry and to his students, his humor, and his generosity. These essays are love letters—thank-you notes for some of the great gifts. These former students understand what Larry Levis calls ‘the invisible great good luck’ of having had Phil as a teacher."—from the introduction by Jane Mead
This collection of essays pays tribute to Philip Levine as teacher and mentor. Throughout his fifty-year teaching career, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Levine taught scores of younger poets, many of whom went on to become famous in their own right. These forty essays honor and celebrate one of our most vivid and gifted poets.
Whether in Fresno, New York, Boston, Detroit, or any of the other cities where Levine taught, his students benefited from his sharp, humorous honesty in the classroom. In these personal essays, poets spanning a number of generations reveal how their lives and work were forever altered by studying with Levine. The heartfelt tributes illuminate how one dedicated teacher’s intangible gifts can make a vast difference in the life of a developing poet, as well as providing insight into the changing tenor of the poetry workshop in the American university setting.
Here, poets as diverse as Nick Flynn and David St. John, Sharon Olds and Larry Levis, Ada Limon and Mark Levine, Malena Morling and Lawson Fusao Inada are united in their deep regard for Philip Levine. The voices echo and reverberate as each strikes its own honoring tone.
Aaron Belz, Ciaran Berry, Paula Bohince, Shane Book, B. H. Boston, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Colin Cheney, Michael Clifton, Michael Collier, Nicole Cooley, Kate Daniels, Blas Manuel De Luna, Kathy Fagan, Andrew Feld, Nick Flynn, Edward Hirsch, Sandra Hoben, Ishion Hutchinson, Lawson Fusao Inada, Dorianne Laux, Joseph O. Legaspi, Mark Levine, Larry Levis, Ada Limón, Elline Lipkin, Jane Mead, Dante Micheaux, Malena Mörling, John Murillo, Daniel Nester, Sharon Olds, January Gill O’Neil, Greg Pape, Kathleen Peirce, Sam Pereira, Jeffrey Skinner, Tom Sleigh, David St. John, Brian Turner, Robert Wrigley