Poet Laureate Focuses on Spanish Civil War

September 18, 2011

Philip Levine

The appointment of Philip Levine as U.S. Poet Laureate for the coming year brings a familiar name to prominence. Ten years ago, Levine presented the ALBA-Bill Sennett Lecture at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, and he presented the ALBA-Bill Susman Lecture at New York University the following year, both on the subject of Spanish Civil War poetry.

Levine’s poetry, famous for its working-class subjects, includes numerous pieces about the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish anarchists. Asked by an interviewer for the Michigan Quarterly Review about his “obsession” with these themes, Levine replied, “It began because it was apparent to me…coming from a Jewish household, I had a very heightened sense of what fascism meant….So my obsession with the Spanish Civil War began during the civil war itself, when I was very young. The things I was hearing everywhere were true, that the Nazis and the Italians were there supporting the fascist army, and it was just more of the advance of fascism….And so-called western democracies were doing a pathetic job of combating it. They were looking the other way. And if you look into the history, you know that they wanted fascism to succeed. It was a way of eliminating communism….”

Some of Levine’s poems about Spain are printed in the anthology The Wound and the Dream: Sixty Years of American Poems about the Spanish Civil War, edited by Cary Nelson.


One Response to “ Poet Laureate Focuses on Spanish Civil War ”

  1. john on August 27, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Is the poet Levine related to my dear friend Sid Levine (RIP), a machine gunner at Jarama, etc?