Friday, April 18, 2008

Philip Levine

We met in January at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Saginaw, Michigan to read poems by Detroit native Philip Levine. Maureen, who had gotten us interested in 2007 about Philip Levine, told us about Levine's interest in the Spanish Civil War. We talked about that civil war, among other things, as we read several of his poems and some of his autobiography. Maureen brought her signed copy of his autobiography.

As usual, we all signed a store newsletter for the River Junction Poets' scrapbook, and then we signed a birthday card to send. With the card we included an unsigned store newsletter. Barnes & Noble has generously and reliably mentioned our Poets Birthday Readings in their store newsletters ever since we started this activity in the summer of 2005. We wanted to send a newsletter to Philip Levine that listed our Philip Levine Birthday Reading, and that's what we did. We sent the newsletter with the birthday card that we all signed. Since he is no longer teaching in NY with Sharon Olds, I decided to send the card to him where he used to teach in Fresno, California. It took a while for the card to get to him, but eventually he got it. He wrote back shortly after that:

Dear Poets of Junction City,

Thanks for your birthday greetings. They finally reached me. I retired from Fresno State back in '92.

It's wonderful to know the memory of the Spanish Civil War is alive & well in Saginaw. It was very much alive this fall in NYC; I spoke at a show of the photos of Gerda Taro, Robert Capa, & a living photographer from Spain who is part of a national project to focus attention on the horrors of Franco Spain. I just reread a book by Jose Yglesias on exactly that subject. It can break your heart. As one man said in 1972 not long before Franco died, "Spain is an 82-year-old senile man." Thank God, it's not the same Spain today.

And thanks for reading my work.



Phil Levine

-- "It is our goal to appreciate and improve our talents, to share our own work and to communicate the joys of poetry with others. Everyone's poetry is valued."River Junction Poets Mission Statement

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