Philip Levine was born in 1928 in Detroit, Michigan; a city which would go on to attain a level of immortality by virtue of so many of the poet’s verse being set there. He would go on to earn an M.A. from Wayne State University in 1954 to which he added an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1957. These degrees led to instructional positions at several high profile colleges and universities including Columbia, NYU, and Princeton.
In 1979, Levine won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection Ashes: Poems New and Old. The same collection brought him his first National Book Award for Poetry the very next year. He would add a second National Book Award in 1991 for What Work Is and four years later add to his name to the list of Pulitzer Prize winners for The Simple Truth. Levine capped off his honors with his appointment as United States Poet Laureate in 2011.
One of the most prolific poets of the 20th century, Levine published 25 collections between 1963 and 2009. He is also considered a profoundly urban poet with the most acclaimed of his verse offering poetic examination and analysis of the inner city blight of Detroit, the deceptively lonely beauty of Fresno, California and the aesthetic escapism of Barcelona, Spain.