Levine was born in Detroit and started teaching at Fresno State in 1958. The university didn’t even have a creative writing program at the time.
His close friend and fellow poet Peter Everwine, who taught with Levine for many years, said the poet laureate designation is a significant honor for Levine that caps a long and distinguished career. And it means more bragging rights for the university.
But there is something deeper to consider: the timing.
“The country seems to be so occupied with who we are, what we are, what kind of country we are,” Everwine said. “We have a dysfunctional government, an economy falling apart, two wars, terrible unemployment. Everyone is sort of saying, ‘Who are we as a people?’ I think Phil’s poetry is directly related to those kinds of things.”