Wilkins earns High Plains Book Award

English Professor Joe WilkinsA collection of poetry by Joe Wilkins, associate professor of English at Linfield College, has earned one of nine High Plains Book Awards.

The awards recognize regional authors and literary works that examine and reflect life on the High Plains region, including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Wilkins’ book, “Notes from the Journey Westward,” won in the poetry division. Published in 2012, it is his second full-length collection of poems and explores the idea of America, both historical and contemporary. It is organized into seven sections named for individual peaks in the Seven Devil Mountains of Idaho: He Devil, Devil’s Throne, Mount Baal, The Twin Imps, Tower of Babel, Devil’s Tooth and She Devil.

Wilkins describes the collection as the second and final installment of the poetic project he began with his book, “Killing the Murnion Dogs,” a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award. Both books begin in the high plains of eastern Montana and then travel miles across the American interior, and both grapple with similar questions. Yet “Notes from the Journey Westward” is a fiercer, more insistent book, according to Wilkins.

“The voices here − doomed pioneers, an aging Butch Cassidy and an AM radio preacher, among others − are pitched higher, more rageful and wondering, though the answers they demand are seldom offered,” he said.

Wilkins, who joined the Linfield faculty this fall, said his work outside the classroom often influences his teaching.

“I get so excited about the work my students are doing in the classroom, and that excitement often leads me back to the page,” he added. “Similarly, when I discover things in my own writing practice, I bring that insight directly into the classroom. I love teaching, I love writing, and I’m so thankful I can practice these two necessary vocations.”

Wilkins teaches creative writing, literature and inquiry seminar courses, along with advising the student literary magazine, Camas. In addition to “Killing the Murnion Dogs” and “Notes from the Journey Westward,” which also earned the 17th Annual White Pine Press Poetry Prize, Wilkins is the author of a memoir, “The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry,” a 2012 Montana Book Award Honor Book and a finalist for the 2013 Orion Book Award.

Wilkins’ poems, essays and stories have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Utne Reader, Ecotone, The Sun, Orion and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals, and he has been a National Magazine Award finalist and PEN Center USA Award finalist.

Wilkins holds an M.F.A in creative writing from The University of Idaho and a bachelor’s in computer engineering from Gonzaga University.