"Joe Wilkins has a big, true, highway-running American voice. When you see a new book of his, you should celebrate. Just buy it, put down the window, and let the music blow back your hair. It's nothing but alive." – Luis Alberto Urrea
Joe Wilkins’s memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers (2012), captures life in the Big Dry, a desolate region in eastern Montana that shapes the people who live there and rarely lets them go. Wilkins is also the author of the poetry collections Killing the Murnion Dogs (2011), a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award, and Notes from the Journey Westward (2012), winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize and the High Plains Book Award. His third full-length collection, When We Were Birds (2016) part of the Millers Williams Poetry Prize Series, edited by Billy Collins, was recently named a finalist for the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. His essays, poems, and stories have appeared in a host of magazines and literary journals, including The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, Harvard Review, TriQuarterly, Orion, The Sun, The Utne Reader, High Country News, and Slate.
A National Magazine Award finalist, PEN Center USA Award finalist, and Pushcart Prize Winner, Wilkins is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award of Blue Mountain Center, which goes to “a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom and concern with social justice.” Of Wilkins’s work, the Indiana Review writes, “The most striking component of it is its awareness of ‘the whole world.’ What is ordinary becomes transcendent. In places derelict and seemingly unexceptional, Wilkins compels us to recognize what is worth salvage, worth praise.”
The Mountain and the Fathers, which was named a 2012 Montana Book Award Honor Book and a 2013 Orion Book Award finalist, won a 2014 GLCA New Writers Award, an honor that has previously recognized early work by luminaries such as Alice Munro, Richard Ford, Louise Erdrich, and Mary Szybist. Wilkins’s work has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Magazine Writing, New Poets of the American West, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and Best New Poets 2006 and 2009, and has earned notable mention in multiple editions of Best American Nonrequired Reading and Best American Essays. As the winner of the Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency from PEN Northwest, he and his family spent the summer and fall of 2015 living in a remote cabin in the Klamath Mountains along the Rogue River in southwest Oregon.
Wilkins was born and raised in eastern Montana. After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in computer engineering, he spent two years teaching ninth grade pre-algebra in the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America. He then went on to earn his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho, where he worked with the poet Robert Wrigley and the memoirist Kim Barnes. Wilkins now lives with his wife, son, and daughter in western Oregon, where he teaches writing at Linfield College.