One of the best-known contemporary American poets. He was born in 1928 in Detroit as the second son of a couple of Russian immigrants of Jewish descent. Growing up in the times of the Great Depression in a highly industrialised city, he searched for inspiration among the heroes of the Spanish Civil War. He initially studied at the Wayne State University, combining education with work in car factories. He later continued studying at the University of Iowa, where he met Robert Lowell and John Berryman whom he later called his mentor. Also in that period, he began to compose poems at his mother’s encouragement. He made his debut in 1963 by publishing the On the Edge volume, for which he received his first award.
In 1958, he began to lecture at the California State University in Fresno, where he worked until his retirement in 1992. He was a visiting lecturer at many other universities, in New York, Princeton, and Berkeley, among others. Over the years, he successively announced consecutive volumes of poetry, for which he received a number of prestigious literary awards and distinctions. He received the National Book Award twice – for his collections Ashes: Poems New and Old (1978) and What Work Is (1991). His volume entitled The Simple Truth was honoured with the Pulitzer Prize (1994). In 1997, Levine joined the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in the years 2011-2012, he was the official Poet Laureate of the United States Library of Congress. He currently divides his time between Fresno and Brooklyn.
Levine’s oeuvre includes 20 volumes of poems, translations of poetry from Spanish, and a collection of essays. To date, three collections have been published in Polish: The Simple Truth: Selected Poems (2004) translated by Adam Szyper, as well as Moradian (2006) and The City of Dreams (2013) translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough.