UW Today

April 13, 2011

Poets to visit as part of UW Common Books celebration of National Poetry Month

News and Information

Nationally-acclaimed poets Philip Levine and Ken Arkind will share their work and answer questions at “Poetry: From Pulitzer to Performance” as part of the UW Common Books celebration of National Poetry Month. The event will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, in Kane. It is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended.

Ken Arkind, left, and Philip Levine.

Ken Arkind, left, and Philip Levine.

The UW Common Book for the 2010-11 academic year, You Are Never Where You Are, is a collection of poems compiled by the UW Common Book selection committee. Levine and Arkind are two of the 15 poets included in the book and are popular among students. Much of Levines work focuses on blue-collar workers in urban, industrial landscapes while Arkinds background as a performance and slam poet lends his work more of a raw edged musicality. The writers approach subjects differently but their attention to such contemporary issues as working, expression, and urban landscapes brings a depth of attention, thought and artistry to these issues.

Levine “is a large, ironic Whitman of the industrial heartland,” according to Edward Hirsch of the New York Times Book Review. Hirsch called Levine “one of [America's] . . . quintessentially urban poets.” He was born in 1928 to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Detroit, a city that inspired much of his writing. Author of 20 collections of poetry, his most recent is News Of The World. The Simple Truth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. What Work Is won the National Book Award in 1991. The title poem of that book appears in the UW collection.

David Baker writes, “What Work Is may be one of the most important books of poetry of our time. Poem after poem confronts the terribly damaged conditions of American labor, whose circumstance has perhaps never been more wrecked.” Levine is known as the poet of the working class, and he remains dedicated to writing poetry “for people for whom there is no poetry.”

Levine is also the recipient of the National Book Critics Award and the Ruth Lily prize.

Ken Arkind is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam Champion and full-time touring artist who has performed in almost all of the lower 48 states, Hawaii, Canada, and at more than 200 colleges and universities. With Panama Soweto, he is one-half of The Dyamic Duo, the nations most-highly-booked spoken word act.

Arkind has been featured in the documentaries SPIT! and Slamplanet as well as on HBO, CBS, NBC, and Borders.coms Open Door Poetry series alongside former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. A regular fixture in the Denver music scene, Arkind has opened for such acts as The Flobots, Gil Scott Heron, Devotchka, Sage Francis, Ani DiFranco, Cloud Cult, P.O.S., and NPRs Amy Goodman. The only poet signed to Hot Congress Records, Arkinds work has been published in numerous literary anthologies and journals across the country, including The Good Things About America. His first collection of poetry, I Know Why Georgia Turner Waited by the Train Tracks, will be available summer of 2011 from Penmanship Books.

He is currently the executive director and head coach for the Denver Minor Disturbance Poetry Project, an independent literary arts organization dedicated to helping Colorado youth find their voices through poetry and performance. Arkinds poem, “An Experiment in Noise, in A Sharp Major,” is featured in the UW Common Book.

Both poets will meet with students for Q&A sessions on the afternoon of April 19, and Arkind will also conduct a mini-workshop. These sessions are limited to UW students. They are free but registration is required:

Register for Levine

Register for Arkind