Wilkins received the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry for his book, “When We Were Birds.” In the collection, he wrestles his attention away from the grief, deprivations and high prairies of his Montana childhood. He turns instead toward “the bean-rusted fields and gutted factories of the Midwest” — toward ordinary injustice and everyday sadness, toward the imminent birth of his son and his own confusion about taking up the mantle of fatherhood, toward faith and grace, legacy and luck.
When Wilkins arrived at Linfield, he had already proven himself as a writer of great skill and insight, having earned acclaim in other areas of the west. The English Department has received numerous testimonials from his peers and editors about his growing national reputation, said Barbara Seidman, professor of English and department chair.
“Linfield’s creative writing program has boasted many fine writers and Joe’s achievement makes clear that its future under his direction is brighter than ever,” Seidman added. “His students already know the prize they have in Joe’s mentorship and example.”
The collection, “When We Were Birds,” was also selected by former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins for the Miller Williams Poetry Prize Series. Wilkins is the author of a memoir, “The Mountain and the Fathers,” which won a GLCA New Writers Award in 2014, as well as two previous books of poetry, “Notes from the Journey Westward” and “Killing the Murnion Dogs.” Wilkins lives with his family in McMinnville, where he teaches creative writing and American literature at Linfield.
Now in its 30th year, The Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships honor writers in the state who work in poetry, fiction, drama, literary nonfiction and literature for young readers.
Wilkins’ award continues a history of statewide recognition for Linfield faculty. Professor emeritus Lex Runciman earned an Oregon Book Award in 1989. Recent finalists have included Nick Buccola, associate professor of political science, and Barbara Drake, professor emerita of English.