The Simple Truth: Poems
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The Simple Truth: Poems

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  391 ratings  ·  27 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....more
ebook, 80 pages
Published August 31st 2011 by Knopf (first published 1994)
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(showing 1-30 of 691)
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Harper Curtis
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
Daniel Rosler
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.
Katherine Emery
Dec 08, 2007 Katherine Emery rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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."
Mike
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
Diana
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
Ann
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
Julene
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
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.
Patrick Mcgee
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
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.
Erik Simon
I read a lot of poetry, and Levine is one of my favorite contemporaries. The older I get (though I'm not that old), the more I prefer the longer line. The title poem in this collection is exquisite, but the poem titled "Listen Carefully," is breathtaking.
Donna Merritt
Some of the poems I liked best in this book include "Llanto"; "In the Dark"; "Getting There"; "The Simple Truth"; and my favorite, "The Poem of Chalk."
Peter
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).
Michael
Grit meets grace in the poems of Philip Levine, who conveys the pathos of working-class life as ably as he does the peace of a cool summer sunset.
Micah Harding
This was just ok. I'll have to read it again...at first go I noticed a tone of extreme resignation which bored me despite all of the nice imagery.
Sonya Feher
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.
Susan rogers
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.
D'Anne
Title poem by itself is easily worth 5 stars. It is really, really great. The rest of the collection is mostly just good. But hey, good isn't bad.
Marikka
Masterful. Strips down life to its bare essentials and elevates simplicity. Calming read yet still stirs the soul. Great stuff.
Marik Casmon
Levine's Pulitzer Prize winner is a beautiful collection. I read it first in the 90s and it holds up as I re-read it today.
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.
Carol Kirwin
Amazing!I could read, reread, and read these poems again and again and again to truly savor their power and meaning.
Nick
I really enjoyed Levine simple yet evocative style. His imagery and deeply personal poems make for a great read.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Lovely verse but didn't speak to me like What Work Is.

Looking forward to reading more of Levine's work.
Emily
A lovely example of his work. Reminds me in some ways of Whitman and Ginsberg.
Amy Kitchell-Leighty
I really adore Levine but this isn't one of my fav's of his.
Sara!
Sara! added it
Aug 17, 2014
Michelle Mooney
Michelle Mooney marked it as to-read
Aug 16, 2014
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Philip Levine (b. January 10, 1928, Detroit, Michigan) is 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 the United States for 2011–2012.

Philip Levin...more
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