The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography

Overview


The Bread of Time is an amalgam of celebration and quest. In this memoir, Philip Levine celebrates the poets who were his teachers--particularly John Berryman and Yvor Winters, writers whose lives and work, he believes, have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the process of writing this account of his childhood and young manhood in Detroit and of his middle and later years in California and Spain, Levine came to realize that he was also engaged in a quest, striving to discover "how I am." The resulting ...
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Overview


The Bread of Time is an amalgam of celebration and quest. In this memoir, Philip Levine celebrates the poets who were his teachers--particularly John Berryman and Yvor Winters, writers whose lives and work, he believes, have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the process of writing this account of his childhood and young manhood in Detroit and of his middle and later years in California and Spain, Levine came to realize that he was also engaged in a quest, striving to discover "how I am." The resulting work provides a double-edged revelation of the way writers grow. Witty and elegantly rendered in a prose that is as characteristically Levine's as his verse, this is superb--and essential--reading for anyone interested in contemporary poetry and poets.

Philip Levine has received many awards for his books of poems, most recently the National Book Award for What Work Is in 1991 and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for The Simple Truth in 1995. Levine recently retired from the University of California, Fresno.

From one of our most celebrated poets--winner of two National Book Awards and two awards from the National Book Critics Circle--an extraordinary memoir that celebrates the poets who were his teachers--particularly John Berryman and Yvor Winters, whose lives and work, Levine believes, have been misunderstood and misinterpreted.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This National Book Award-winning poet worked as a young man in Detroit's Chevrolet Gear and Axle factory with ``a sense of utter weariness that descended each night from my neck to my shoulder'' because he wanted to conserve his intellectual energy for his writing. Levine, according to his mother, ``set out to prove there is social mobility in America . . . so he got born smack-dab in the middle of the middle class, grew up in the lower middle class, and then as adult joined the working class.'' Nine essays of varying lengths, collected from distinguished literary reviews, are loosely linked by autobiographical detail: stories of his poetic mentors, his travels to Spain, his wife and sons, his translations of Antonio Machado and his slow migration into the world of teaching. His portrait of John Berryman, with whom Levine studied at the University of Iowa Creative Writing Workshop, glows with affection: ``He was the most brilliant, intense, articulate man I've ever met.'' More a gloss on the poet than an autobiography, these essays lack an emotional thread to bind them together. Despite the fluent and often elegant prose, their curiously slack, anecdotal tone leaves admirers of Levine's poetry dissatisfied. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Would that all autobiographical efforts were anywhere near this good. Shunning a literal retelling of his life, award-winning poet Levine has instead assembled a series of autobiographical essays not originally conceived together. The result is an elegant if tough-minded account of his struggles to leave behind the rough-and-ready world of lower-middle-class Detroit and become the first-class poet he is. From the affecting memoirs of two important mentors--John Berryman and Yvor Winters--to an account of his steadfast effort to crack the code of Spanish verse while living with his family in Spain, Levine manages to make clear his commitment to poetry and abiding leftist convictions while keeping readers completely entertained. Does it matter that in two essays he ``takes such liberties with actual events that they could be regarded as fictions''? Not really; this is not a straightforward life for future scholars but, like all good poems, an imaginative rethinking of events that gets at a deeper truth. Highly recommended.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472086252
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 12/10/2001
  • Series: Poets on Poetry Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,272,742
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Levine

Biography

On August 10th, 2011, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of Philip Levine as the Library's 18th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2011-2012.

Levine will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library's annual literary season with a reading of his work at the Coolidge Auditorium on Monday, Oct. 17.

"Philip Levine is one of America's great narrative poets," Billington said. "His plainspoken lyricism has, for half a century, championed the art of telling ‘The Simple Truth'--about working in a Detroit auto factory, as he has, and about the hard work we do to make sense of our lives."

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    1. Hometown:
      Fresno, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 10, 1928
    2. Place of Birth:
      Detroit, Michigan
    1. Education:
      B.A., Wayne State University; M.F.A., Iowa Writers Workshop, University of Iowa

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