Work … it's something we are told we have to do. We're not allowed to spend a week staring into the Pacific Ocean to watch dolphins slice in and out of waves among the surfers; we're not allowed to waste a day on the job, taking naps and staring into the clouds shaped like dinosaurs; and we're definitely not allowed to read something so unproductive as poetry. Instead, we stare into endless spreadsheets, grinding machines and popcorn ceilings. When do we take time for the beautiful? Well, it just so happens that Philip Levine, our nation's current poet laureate, finds the lyrical and amazing in our working lives. Levine grew up in Detroit and worked in factories, gathering calluses on his hands, only to find poetry everywhere, even standing in the line at Ford Highland Park and waiting for a man to say there is no work today. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Levine will bring his celebrated career to Mark Taper Auditorium at the Central Library and show us why even the smallest detail — the empty bottle of gin, a mother's dream about John Coltrane or the empty factory at the edge of an economically depressed city — can be as beautiful and stunning as any masterpiece. Mark Taper Auditorium, Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., dwntwn.; Thurs., Feb. 23, 7 p.m.; free. (213) 228-7500,

Thu., Feb. 23, 7 p.m., 2012

LA Weekly