Joe Wilkins is the author of a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry, winner of the 2014 GLCA New Writers Award and a finalist for the 2013 Orion Book Award, and two collections of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward andKilling the Murnion Dogs. A Pushcart Prize winner and National Magazine Award finalist, his work has appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Ecotone, The Sun, Orion, and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals.
Born and raised on the high plains of eastern Montana, Wilkins has called the Mississippi Delta, the mountains of Idaho, and the prairies of Iowa home. He now lives with his wife, son, and daughter in western Oregon, where he teaches writing at Linfield College.
We Had to Go on Living
Prose that reads like poetry; thoughtful, precise, image driven but not overladen. Lyric. Two personal essays comprise this collection. "Northern Pike" explores the world of a neighborhood and navigating the unknown. "Bruised" explores the intimate and expansive world of injury and healing.
From "Northern Pike"
Last Saturday, when we had that moment of sun, all four kids came spilling out the sliding door, ran laughing and screaming into the backyard. They had these big, brand-new plastic cars—a pink convertible for the girls, a red jeep with big wheels for the boys. It was good to see because he was out there with them, our neighbor back from Iraq, his cigarette clamped tight in the corner of his mouth. He was helping them get their cars going. He was laughing and letting them chase him around the muddy yard. “Daddy,” they called. “Let us get you, Daddy!” He laughed and laughed and ran out in front of them and finally let them come close enough to bump the backs of his legs.People up and down the block were out that day, walking, jogging, puttering in their yards. Of course I didn’t know anyone—save the ex-Marine and his kids, Dennis weedeating on the other side of us, and across the alley Lynn sitting on his steps and smoking.
It has to do as well with how I peer this evening out of my squinched eye at a world similarly squinched and distended; how whenever I breathe, the contours of my swollen face reify themselves in my mind. To dull the pain, I focus on something outside of me: the broken-backed couch we bought for twenty-five dollars at a garage sale, the old braided rug, the dusty television screen, the tumbling stack of videotapes, the ragged line of empty beer cans. I am someone who lives a good portion of his life in his head, someone for whom the force of an idea can be as powerful as the rush of a winter gale or the startling thwack of an accidental elbow. Yet this night whatever ideas I have must wait in line, must sit tight.
This night I am here and here: in this bruised self, in this bruised world.
Also by Joe Wilkins...
The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry Winner of the 2014 GLCA New Writers Award in Nonfiction
Notes from the Journey Westward Winner of the 2013 High Plains Book Award in Poetry
Killing the Murnion Dogs Finalist for the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize
The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: An Anthology of Explorations in Creative Nonfiction
More about the author...