Sales soar for books by new poet laureate

Posted Aug. 12, 2011, at 10:10 p.m.

NEW YORK — The country wants to know more about its next poet in chief.

Sales have jumped for books by Philip Levine, a Pulitzer Prize winner who on Wednesday was named the U.S. poet laureate. Within a day of the Library of Congress’ announcement, several of Levine’s books had sold out on Amazon.com, including “News of the World” and “The Simple Truth.” Little of his work, or of any poetry, is available electronically because verse is so difficult to format for digital reading devices.

Levine’s “What Work Is” ranked No. 110 on Amazon as of Thursday morning, a status rarely held by a book of poetry.

Levine, 83, of Fresno, Calif., who is known for his celebrations of the working class, wondered if the weak economy was a reason for the increased interest in his work.

“The same thing happened when ‘What Work Is’ won the National Book Award (in 1991),” he said. “It was also a time of great strife in the labor market.”

Being poet laureate means Levine will likely get to meet President Barack Obama, among the most literary of presidents. Levine said he was a supporter of Obama in 2008 and was thrilled by his election. But he says he would have been happier to see the president right after his victory.

 

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