Thomas Curwen at the LA Times:
In the spring of 1952, poet Philip Levine worked at the Chevrolet Gear and Axle plant in Detroit, Mich. He was 24 and had been writing poems for nearly 10 years.
Some get their calling early, but being a young poet is not easy. He had clocked hours in an ice factory, a bottling corporation, on the railroad — but none as boring and hazardous as in the gear and axle plant, where he pulled automotive parts from the forge and hung them on conveyors that whisked them elsewhere in the factory.
Years later, well committed to a life of “poverty and poetry,” he could still feel “almost without hatred that old sense of utter weariness that descended each night from my neck to my shoulders, and then down my arms to my wrists and hands.”
Over his lifetime, Levine, who died at 87 in 2015, never lost that muscle memory, his ars poetica. He carried it with him whenever he “lifted a pencil to write,” the memory of that hellish world — with its clanging steel, poisoned rats and freezing winds rushing through broken windows — of so many exploited lives.