‘You Can Have It’ is a poem about a man’s loss of enthusiasm towards life and his desire to regain the things and people that made it more colorful. The poem conveys this message through the persona’s narrative, set in Detroit in the year 1948.
Philip Levine is the poet behind this piece, and it is regarded as one of his best poems. He often wrote semiautobiographical poems about simple daily life. Levine's poems particularly revolved around his work life, and 'You Can Have It' is no exception.
My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.
‘The Simple Truth’ by Philip Levine is a thoughtful narrative poem that explores life’s “simple truths” and how fundamental they are to our understanding of the world.
Philip Levine was a prominent poet in 20th-century American poetry, known for his straightforward style and themes of working-class life. This poem should be considered among his best due to its use of plain language and highly relatable themes. Many readers from all walks of life will find themselves connecting to the poet's assertion that simple truths are fundamental to "our" identities.
I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
‘They Feed They Lion’ by Philip Levine is a powerful poem that visualizes a scene of apocalyptic proportions. It was inspired by the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots.
There’s a reason 'They Feed They Lion' is one of Philip Levine’s most well-known pieces. From its vividly evocative imagery and surreal use of language, it’s a poem that conveys, on a visceral level, its themes of consumption and rebellion. The poem features several powerful examples of contrast, or juxtaposition, as the destruction and world-ending events are alluded to as the just reaction of oppressed peoples.
Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
‘What Work Is’ by Philip Levine attempts to reconcile the speaker’s perceptions of what work is versus the tormenting experience of waiting for it.
This poem by Philip Levine first appears to be about answering the title's question: what is work? But the speaker is pushed to ruminate about their understanding of work and how that has affected their relationship with their brother. It's a poem about discovering empathy in personal experience and struggling to reconcile that revelation.
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what