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Philip Levine Quotes
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"American poets have been criticized for anything you can think of. For being too English, recently for not being English enough."
"Back then, I couldn't have left a poem a year and gone back to it."
"But I'm too old to be written about as a young poet."
"But most commonly, it's one poem that I work on with a lot of intensity."
"Detroit was just a Levine-size town."
"For sure I once thought of myself as the poet who would save the ordinary from oblivion."
"I have a sense that many Americans, especially those like me with European or foreign parents, feel they have to invent their families just as they have to invent themselves."
"I listen to jazz about three hours a day. I love Louis Armstrong."
"I realized poetry's the thing that I can do 'cause I can stick at it and work with tremendous intensity."
"I started listening to music when I wrote when I had three sons at home."
"I think Coltrane at a certain point was fabulous, and then he sort of went off into wail and shmail, and you know, you can have it."
"I think in the best poems I make a lot of discoveries about voice, about subject, about what my real feelings are."
"I was eighteen or nineteen years old, and I'd get these genius ideas for novels and try to finish then in three or four days without going to sleep."
"I was very lucky to have a mother who encouraged me to become a poet."
"I write what's given me to write."
"I'm afraid we live at the mercy of a power, maybe a God, without mercy. And yet we find it, as I have, from others."
"I'm in a situation now, and I have been for ten or fifteen years, where there's no point in my being in a hurry."
"I'm saying look, here they come, pay attention. Let your eyes transform what appears ordinary, commonplace, into what it is, a moment in time, an observed fragment of eternity."
"I'm seventy-one now, so it's hard to imagine a dramatic change."
"I've never known where I'm going until I've gone and come back, and then it takes me ages to see what the trip was about."
"If that voice that you created that is most alive in the poem isn't carried throughout the whole poem, then I destroy where it's not there, and I reconstruct it so that that voice is the dominant voice in the poem."
"In my twenties, before I learned how to write poems of work, I thought of myself as the person who would capture this world."
"It would be nice to stumble onto one of those great projects so I could stay busy right through my dotage, but I'm not counting on it."
"It's ironic that while I was a worker in Detroit, which I left when I was twenty six, my sense was that the thing that's going to stop me from being a poet is the fact that I'm doing this crummy work."
"Let's say I live to be eighty - I'm seventy-one now - nothing I do between now and eighty is going to change the way people think about my poetry."
"Meet some people who care about poetry the way you do. You'll have that readership. Keep going until you know you're doing work that's worthy. And then see what happens. That's my advice."
"My father died when I was five, but I grew up in a strong family."
"My father's life seemed and still seems utterly mysterious to me. He came alone to the States from Russia at age eleven."
"My mother carried on and supported us; her ambition had been to write poetry and songs."
"My mother worked full-time so I was largely ungoverned, free to roam the streets of Detroit from an early age and research the poems to come, a tiny Walt Whitman going among powerful, uneducated people."
"My sense of a poem - my notion of how you revise - is: you get yourself into a state where what you are intensely conscious of is not why you wrote it or how you wrote it, but what you wrote."
"My temperament is not geared to that of a novelist."
"No one can write like Vallejo and not sound like a fraud. He's just too much himself and not you."
"Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it's the home of the extraordinary, the only home."
"The irony is, going to work every day became the subject of probably my best poetry."
"There'll always be working people in my poems because I grew up with them, and I am a poet of memory."
"Well, don't kid yourself, I got plenty of crummy poems that I think I might use."
"When I started writing, I wanted to be a fiction writer. I wanted to be a novelist."
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