The Last Shift: Poems

Philip Levine, edited by Edward Hirsch. Knopf, $26.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-451-49326-2
In this posthumous collection of new poems, Levine (News of the World) extends the content of his American working-class poetics both to look back at his past and to push himself to reckon with the future. Hirsch, who organized and titled the book, writes in his foreword that Levine (1928–2015) “was a poet of the night shift, a late, ironic Whitman of our industrial heartland, and his life’s work is a long assault on isolation, an ongoing struggle against the enclosures of suffering.” Hardships, joys, and stories of old friends and the assembly floor make up the bulk of this book: “8 a.m. and we punch out/ and leave the place to our betters,/ the day shift jokers who think/ they’re in for fun,” but throughout, Levine takes moments to recenter before projecting forward: “The wind kept prodding/ at my back as though determined/ to push me away from where I was/ fearful, perhaps, I would come to rest.” It’s clear that Levine knew these wonderful poems would be among his last, and he seems to come to terms with his impending nonbeing: “These places where I had lived/ all the days of my life were giving up/ their hold on me and not a moment too soon.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/17/2016
Release date: 11/08/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-451-49377-4
Ebook - 978-0-451-49328-6
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