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Levine, a former U.S. poet laureate who died in 2015, was a Whitman or a Ginsburg for those embroiled in Midwestern, heartland work, the industrial work whose specter became a powerful political touchstone during last year’s election cycle. His poems, which faced the worker, rather than romanticizing him for a far-away audience, felt genuine because he himself was a worker, descended from other workers. Levine’s father, who died when he was five years old, owned a used auto parts business in Detroit. Levine worked in car manufacturing plants before he turned sixteen. His hands knew both the rigors of hard work, and the beauty that it can create.

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