Publication prompts praise for professor, poet

Rosa Johnson, Managing Editor

Linfield is able to declare that it has an award winning author in its faculty.

Associate professor of English Joe Wilkins, the latest edition to the English department won one of the nine High Plains Book Awards for his collection of poetry, “Notes from the Journey Westward.”

The High Plains Book Awards recognize regional authors and their literary works that examine and reflect life in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

“I’ve written two other books: a memoir, ‘The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry,’ and a previous collection of poems, ‘Killing the Murnion Dogs.’ Both books were finalists for a number of post-publication book prizes, including the Orion Book Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize, and it’s great to be a finalist, but it’s really nice to finally win one, too,” Wilkins said in an email.

“Notes from the Journey Westward” received an award in the poetry division for the High Plains Book Awards.

Wilkins has written poetry previously. His latest novel elaborates on his other work.

“In many ways, ‘Notes from the Journey Westward’ can be read as the second and final installment of the poetic project I began with ‘Killing the Murnion Dogs,’ my first full-length collection. Both books begin in the high plains of eastern Montana and then travel miles across the American interior, and both grapple with similar questions,” Wilkins wrote.

Wilkins began writing the poems that would become “Notes from the Journey Westward,” in his final year of graduate school at the University of Idaho, in the spring of 2007 and completed the last few poems in the summer of 2010, while on a writers’ residency in the Adirondack Mountain’s of New York.

“Notes from the Journey Westward” was picked up and published in the fall 2012 by White Pine Press.

“I worked so hard on my first two books. ‘Notes from the Journey Westward’ came a little easier, both in the writing and the publishing, which, I think, has led me to neglect it a little bit. The award has been a nice reminder that this [work] matters just as much as the others,” Wilkins wrote.

Wilkins came to Linfield this fall from Waldorf College, he directed the creative writing program there for six years.

Before that, he received his Masters of Fine in Creative Writing from the University of Idaho, where he worked with the poet Robert Wrigley and the memoirist Kim Barnes.

Wilkins taught in the Mississippi Delta for two years as a member of Teach For America and he earned his undergraduate degree in computer engineering from Gonzaga University.

“I’m just loving Linfield,” Wilkins wrote in an email. “My students are working so hard and writing so well, my colleagues are great, and McMinnville’s a pretty cool small town.”