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The Simple Truth: Poems

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  564 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1995
 
Written in a voice that moves between elegy and prayer, The Simple Truth contains thirty-three poems whose aim is to weave a complex tapestry of myth, history (both public and private), family, memory, and invention in a search for truths so basic and universal they often escape us all.


From the Hardcover edition.
ebook, 80 pages
Published August 31st 2011 by Knopf (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Harper Curtis
Nov 08, 2013 Harper Curtis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, engaging, human and personal. Levine is one of the greats.

Ask for Nothing

Instead walk alone in the evening
heading out of town toward the fields
asleep under a darkening sky;
the dust risen from your steps transforms
itself into a golden rain fallen
earthward as a gift from no known god.
The plane trees along the canal bank
the few valley poplars, hold their breath
as you cross the wooden bridge that leads
nowhere you haven't been, for this walk
repeats itself once or more a day.
That is why in
...more
Noha
Jan 04, 2017 Noha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
3.5

I honestly enjoyed this collection. Levine's writing is very simple. You can feel the calmness in each line, idk if you get what i mean! These poems are very quiet 'n lovely.


“Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker-”


I'm definitely looking forward to read more of his work.
Mike
Jan 18, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ask for Nothing

Instead walk alone in the evening
heading out of town toward the fields
asleep under a darkening sky;
the dust risen from your steps transforms
itself into a golden rain fallen
earthward as a gift from no known god.
The plane trees along the canal bank
the few valley poplars, hold their breath
as you cross the wooden bridge that leads
nowhere you haven't been, for this walk
repeats itself once or more a day.
That is why in the distance you see
beyond the first ridge of low hills
where nothing
...more
Dave
Nov 28, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The one poet I would take to a desert island. Deceptively simple and straight-forward. The voice of America from the jobs and small houses of second generation immigrants establishing a place in industrial might of our mid-Century. A voice of grey smoke and dirty rivers and people getting up in the morning in the dark.
Jen
Jul 04, 2015 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I'm not sure what prompted me to finally get a volume of Philip Levine's poetry. Perhaps I'd heard of his passing earlier this year. I've been curious about his poetry ever since first reading "You Can Have It" (available here http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/...) in an anthology many years ago. I've enjoyed other poems of his I've run across over the years. I chose The Simple Truth because it won him a Pulitzer so I thought it might represent some of his best work. However, I doubt that's t ...more
Ann
Jun 03, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 1995 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume by the great American poet Philip Levine deserves its heady accolades. Harold Bloom wrote at the time of its release: "I wonder if any American poet since Walt Whitman himself has written elegies this consistently magnificent. The controlled pathos of every poem in the volume is immense, and gives me a new sense of Levine." Plain and exalted, the experience of reading this collection is as rich as reading a great novel. Some highlights:

from "The Poem of Ch
...more
Katherine Emery
Dec 08, 2007 Katherine Emery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who breathes
"It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it."
Daniel Rosler
May 31, 2013 Daniel Rosler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this on a whim because I saw Cameron McGill post about it. Needed something to read, and he spoke so fondly of it. Can't deny I was curious, though it appears superficial, that it won the '95 Pulitzer Prize.

At first, I wasn't sure if I was enjoying it. But the more I got accustomed to Levine's style, the more I fell in love. Absolutely feeling inspired thanks to this collection.
Robin Friedman
Dec 30, 2016 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phillip Levine's Simple Truth

Philip Levine writes in the title poem of this collection:
"Some things/you know all your life. They are so simple and true/they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,/they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,/the glass of water, the absence of light gathering/ in the shadows of picture frames, they must be/ naked and alone, they must stand for themselves."

These lines capture many of the themes of this Pulitzer-prize winning book. The poems in t
...more
Diana
Jun 20, 2013 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Simple Truth is just that. It is straightforward, I suspect that it is highly autobiographical, and it is a really good book. Most of the poems seem to be set in the 1960s, although the collection was published in 1994. Many of the poems describe Levine's hometown, Detroit.

As long as I have been alive, optimists have been asserting that Detroit is set for a comeback, while the pessimists/realists have left the city and look back at it only from the other side of Eight Mile. It was interestin
...more
Julene
Jan 02, 2009 Julene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This Pulitzer Prize (1995) winning book is the work of a seasoned poet. He is so skilled at lyric narrative; I reread this book for it's infinite layers. There are many elegies in this book.
In a poem titled The Poem of Chalk he writes, "He knew/the whole history of chalk, not only/of this particular piece, but also/the chalk with which I wrote/my name the day they welcomed/me back to school after the death/of my father. He knew feldspar,/he knew calcium, oyster shells, he/knew what creatures had
...more
Xan
I'm not a huge poetry reader, but as my Library was hosting the Poet Laureate in a web event I thought I would take the opportunity to read some of his poetry beforehand as this book just happened across my desk. I'm so glad I did. I understand now why they call Philip Levin the Working Man's Poet. His poetry is down to earth and approachable, with everyday themes and words that make the reader feel at home, even welcomed into the pages. I am a fan.
Helen
Feb 03, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Simple Truth, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1995, is perhaps Levine's most basic, streamlined collection. As the title poem states

Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker...
they must stand for themselves.

And the poems in this collection do just that. Lovely, quiet, and powerful.
Joe
Mar 02, 2015 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never read any of Levine's work (aside from "Belle Isle, 1949"), but decided to after his recent passing. The book was great. Not only was Levine a Detroiter dedicated to the working-class, he was a phenomenal poet. Great voice. Some poems I enjoyed:

"Blue and Blue," "Llanto," "Getting There," "Tristan," "The Simple Truth," "My Brother Abel, The Wounded," & "Listen Carefully"
Sheri Fresonke Harper
I enjoyed this collection but didn't like it as well as "The Mercy" but it shares many of the same style characteristics in the poems--lyricism, story telling, presence in the moment. There was less a sense of awe in some of them that I liked so well in "The Mercy" but these are very much in touch with everyday living and a good, easy read and taste treat when read poem by poem
Joe Stack
These are biographical poems that transcend Levine's personal life. Rooted in his connections with family and others, the poems explore personal connections that each reader may appreciate on a personal level. The past in evident in the present. Levine's writing is calm, thoughtful, and lyrical.
Patrick Mcgee
Apr 16, 2012 Patrick Mcgee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection is a powerful book of poetry that is also beautiful, mesmerizing, and thought-provoking. If you are a fan of narrative style poetry and you haven't checked out Levine, you should do so now. Highly recommended and quite evident why it won the Pulitzer.
Jerry Landry
Jul 30, 2012 Jerry Landry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
Philip Levine’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of poetry, The Simple Truth, takes the reader on a journey through the ins and outs of life, death and everything in between. Some of the poems had such a haunting lyricism that one at times felt entangled within the words.
Margery
Mar 04, 2015 Margery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, wow, wow! I see why Philip Levine got the Pulitzer Prize for this collection. If you have not read this recently deceased poet, you are missing some absolutely beautiful writing. More like verse a than poetry. So easy to read--a sheer joy.
Paul
Oct 09, 2014 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
See that score in a half-full light. 3/5 frequently taken for meh, mine is one of approval. Didn't occupy my day, nor the whole morning, but as poetry isn't my leisure, I believe I benefitted. Three in the collection stood tallest. Two from II, and one III.
John Spalding
May 27, 2016 John Spalding rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in one setting after it came out. Ode to Mrs William Settle and the poem about Crane and Lorca meeting were superb. Although I suspect this collection lacks the depth of What Work Is, I prefer it never the less.
Carol Kirwin
Sep 06, 2012 Carol Kirwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing!I could read, reread, and read these poems again and again and again to truly savor their power and meaning.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Lovely verse but didn't speak to me like What Work Is.

Looking forward to reading more of Levine's work.
Kristina
I think I'll need to re-read this at some point. The simple language didn't stick to my throat the way I like poetry to.
Nick
Jun 15, 2008 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Levine simple yet evocative style. His imagery and deeply personal poems make for a great read.
Susan rogers
May 30, 2008 Susan rogers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
blue collar poetry from the heart, What Work Is, is my favorite collection of his, but this title came to mind first. In the vein of raymond carver.
Sonya Feher
Jun 29, 2008 Sonya Feher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
These poems are quiet and simple, wonderful to read lying in a hammock or sitting in a recliner when one can sit with them and let them sink in.
Peter
Apr 28, 2012 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I enjoyed this collection, and if you like Levine, it is worth your time. However, for me, it did not have the power of his best work (What Work Is).
Terence Manleigh
Absolutely breath-taking poetry. Levine is truly one of the greats.
Rachel Remer
I would have only given this 2 stars for most of the book but in the third section there were a few poems about his brother and sister that I loved so I bumped up the rating.
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Poetry Readers Ch...: The Simple Truth by Philip Levine 7 9 Jul 07, 2015 06:40AM  
  • Selected Poems
  • Practical Gods
  • The Carrier of Ladders
  • Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
  • Blizzard of One
  • Repair
  • Late Wife
  • Failure
  • Versed
  • Moy Sand and Gravel
  • Sweet Machine
  • This Time: New and Selected Poems
  • Elegy
  • Black Zodiac
  • The Waking: Poems: 1933 - 1953
  • Walking to Martha's Vineyard
  • Selected Poems
  • Thomas and Beulah
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Philip Levine (b. January 10, 1928, Detroit, Michigan. d. February 14, 2015, Fresno, California) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet best known for his poems about working-class Detroit.

He taught for over thirty years at the English Department of California State University, Fresno and held teaching positions at other universities as well. He is appointed to serve as the Poet Laureate of t
...more
More about Philip Levine...

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“Oh, yes, let’s bless the imagination. It gives us the myths we live by. Let’s bless the visionary power of the human— the only animal that’s got it—, bless the exact image of your father dead and mine dead, bless the images that stalk the corners of our sight and will not let go.” 5 likes
“If she were writing by candlelight she would now be in the dark, for a living flame would refuse to be fed by such pure exhaustion. Actually she is in the dark, for the” 1 likes
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