Philip Levine was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 10, 1928. Starting at the age of 14, he held a series of industrial jobs including working in a soap factory, hefting cases of soft drinks at a bottling plant, manning a punch press at Chevrolet Gear and Axle, and operating a jackhammer at Detroit Transmission. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Wayne State University and a master of fine arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
His first collection of poetry, On the Edge, was published in 1961. His other poetry collections included 1933, Not This Pig, They Feed They Lion, A Walk with Tom Jefferson, The Mercy, and Breath. He won numerous awards during his lifetime including the 1977 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for The Names of the Lost, the 1979 National Book Critics Circle Award for Ashes: Poems New and Old and 7 Years from Somewhere, the 1987 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for his body of work, the National Book Award for Ashes: Poems New and Old in 1980 and for What Work Is in 1991, and a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for The Simple Truth. He was appointed the Library of Congress 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry from 2011 to 2012.
His poetry appeared in several publications including The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine. He also published a collection of autobiographical essays entitled Bread of Time and edited an anthology entitled The Essential Keats. He died of pancreatic cancer on February 14, 2015 at the age of 87.
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