I’m scared of poetry. Sometimes because I don’t understand it, and feel stupid, sometimes because it feels annoyingly cloying. But when I hear or read a poem I like, I’m struck by lightening. It lodges somewhere in me and keeps reverberating.
When Philip Levine was announced as our new Poet Laureate on August 10th, I heard his poetry for the first time. I fell, and fell hard, for his poem, “What Work Is.”
In just a few lines, it has everything I try for in my writing. A character caught in tough times, an evocative setting, and an unexpected leap to intense, complex emotions.
(Men waiting outside city mission. Iowa, 1940, Library of Congress.)
Here’s a short interview on Fresh Air which includes his reading the poem:
And the Library of Congress has set up a terrific website if you want more info.
Posted by Elizabeth Partridge