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Philip Levine Prize for Poetry

The Philip Levine Prize for Poetry is an annual book contest sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at California State University, Fresno. This contest -- open to any poet writing in English (except current or former students or faculty of Fresno State) -- offers a $2,000 prize and publication by Anhinga Press, a Florida-based press that has been publishing poetry for more than 45 years.

Current winner: Steven Kleinman

About the Contest

Our Graduate Student Staff

Through participation in our Engl 242 course, Literary Editing and Publishing, Master of Fine Arts graduate students are given an opportunity to serve as manuscript readers and staff for the Prize, as well as to learn about other facets of contest administration, book publishing and promotions.

Editorial Assistants for 2020: Mariah Bosch, Alejandra Espinoza, Andrea Marin Contreras, Shelby Pinkham

Our Poetry Elder, Philip Levine

The contest is named for the late poet Philip Levine, who served as the contest's final judge in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2013.

Levine was one of the leading poetic voices of his generation, “a large, ironic Walt Whitman of the industrial heartland,” according to poet Edward Hirsch. He is one of the most highly honored and widely read American poets of the 20th Century. Among his many accomplishments:

  • He served as poet laureate of the United States from 2011-2012;
  • He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995;
  • He won two National Book Awards, in 1980 and 1991;
  • He published 16 books of poems, as well as several volumes of translations and two collections of essays;
  • He also won two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the American Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Distinguished Poetic Achievement, and the Wallace Stevens Award.

Levine and fellow poets and professors Peter Everwine and C. G. Hanzlicek established the Creative Writing Program at Fresno State. He taught here from 1958 to 1992, retiring as a Professor Emeritus of English.

He died Feb. 14, 2015 at the age of 87.

Levine's Lasting Legacy

Even after his retirement, Levine remained deeply connected to the Fresno State MFA program for the rest of his life, visiting classes, attending and giving readings, and teaching mini-courses.

The annual Philip Levine Prize for Poetry honors promising new voices in poetry each year, and it actively engages 15-20 graduate students in literary publishing.

The Fresno State Winery produces a limited edition special wine blend called "Picaresque" to honor Levine, with the proceeds benefiting creative writing students through the Philip Levine Scholarship, which was established in 2012 by the College of Arts and Humanities.

The Philip Levine Reading Room inside the Henry Madden Library on campus was opened in May 2017.

Read tributes to Levine on the We Grow Writers blog.