Larry Patrick Levis was born in Fresno, California, on
September 30, 1946. His father was a grape grower, and in his youth Levis drove a tractor, pruned vines, and picked grapes
in Selma, California. He earned a bachelor's degree from Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno)
in 1968, a master's degree from Syracuse University in 1970, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1974.
first book of poems, Wrecking Crew (1972), won the United States Award from the International Poetry Forum. His
second book, The Afterlife (1976), was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The American Academy of Poets. In 1981, The
Dollmaker's Ghost was a winner of the Open Competition of the National Poetry Series.
About Levis' work,
poet Robert Mezey said, "Larry Levis writes a poetry that is full of surprises. Not the predictable and boring surprises
that can be created by formula, but the nourishing shock of fresh ideas that rise from the work of the true poet."
Among his honors were a YM-YWHA Discovery Award, three fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts,
a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
"Levis is not interested in metaphorical equivalence,"
wrote poet Tony Hoagland, "in comparison as a device whose goal is logical coherence, or persuasion, or concentration; rather, his practice
is to use image as a form of inquiry, as a kind of tentative, speculating finger poking into the unknown."
taught English at the University of Missouri from 1974 to 1980, was an associate professor and directed the creative writing
program at the University of Utah from 1980 to 1992, and from 1992 until his death was a professor of English at Virginia
Levis died of a heart attack in 1996, at the age of 49. His last collection, Elegy,
edited by Philip Levine, was published posthumously in 1997.