The inspiration for the title poem of Philip Levine’s A Walk with Tom Jefferson is not the founding father and third president of the United States that most readers would imagine upon hearing the name. Levine’s Tom Jefferson is quite different from his namesake: he is an African American living in a destitute area of industrial Detroit. But to Levine, he is “wise, compassionate, deliberate, honest…a great unknown American.” In A Walk with Tom Jefferson, Philip Levine reminds us why he is best known for his poems about working-class life in Detroit–and why so many people count a Levine poem among their favorites.
PHILIP LEVINE was born in 1928 in Detroit and attended Wayne State University. After a succession of industrial jobs, he left the city for good and lived in various parts of the country before settling in Fresno, California, where he taught… More about Philip Levine