Posts Tagged ‘Philip Levine

10
Aug
11

Congratulations to Philip Levine, the 18th United States Poet Laureate

I met and photographed Philip Levine in 2001, when he was teaching poetry at New York University, where I was a grad student. Levine is one of my favorite poets. His books What Work Is and The Simple Truth are terse, readable monographs that use plain language strikingly.

In the classroom, Levine had a reputation as an honest — simetimes harshly honest — critic. When a friend of mine submitted a poem to his workshop for critique, several of her peers took turns praising one particularly beautiful line. Levine listened patiently to all the congeatulationd, then offered his own blunt assessment: “It’s a fine line,” he said. “Why don’t you put it in a poem?”

I asked Levine if I could photograph him, and he agreed, on the condition that it wouldn’t take long and wouldn’t be overly complicated. I followed him around the Village while he ran errands. We talked while I shot one roll (16 frames) of medium-format black-and-white film with my Contax 645. Here are a few of the resulting photographs of Philip Levine:

This image is available for license: info@mattvalentine.com

Levine succeeds W.S. Merwin as US Poet Laureate. The two men are both outstanding writers, each with a totally unique style. I had the opportunity to photograph Merwin in 2005:

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15
Jan
10

100 Years of Poetry, 100 Years of Photography

I was surprised in December by a phone call out of the blue from Alice Quinn, who was poetry editor at The New Yorker for 25 years. She’s now Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2010. As part of the centennial celebration, Quinn has curated an exhibition of artwork (mostly photography), including formal portraits of poets and some documentary images of poets.

Quinn asked for several of my photos to include in the exhibition, including this shot of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott:

Poet and Playwright Derek Walcott

My other images in the show included portraits of Alice Notley, Breyten Breytenbach, and Philip Levine.

I was fortunate to be able to fly to New York to attend the opening, which featured readings by Richard Howard, Marie Ponsot, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Sapphire. Some of my old friends from New York (including my old office mate Karl from NYU Tisch Department of Photography and Imaging) came to see the show — thanks guys!

The show runs January 5 through 15 at the National Arts Club, at 15 Gramercy Park South. Check out the review in the New York Times.