Philip Levine, a former poet laureate who won the Pulitzer Prize in writing that celebrates the lives of the working class, died at his home in Fresno, California, his wife said Sunday. Levine was 87.

Born and raised in industrial Detroit, Levine is known for books such as "What Work Is" and "News of the World." He won the Pulitzer for poetry in 1995 for a collection called "The Simple Truth," and he served as the country's poet-in-chief from 2011 to 2012.

Before turning to writing full time, Levine worked blue-collar jobs in factories and driving trucks, which became the material for his poetry.

Levine settled in Central California in 1958, where he taught at California State University, Fresno, for more than three decades and at universities across the country. His wife, Frances Levine, said that her husband's second passion to writing was mentoring the next generation of poets.

"He loved teaching," she said. "Out of his classes came a lot of really good poets."

Levine had been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer less than one month before his death on Saturday, Frances Levine said. The couple had been married for 60 years. Philip Levine is also survived by three sons.