Joe Wilkins is the author of a novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, praised as “remarkable and unforgettable” in a starred review at Booklist and short-listed for the First Novel Award from the Center For Fiction, and his memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, won a GLCA Emerging Writers Award, an honor that has previously recognized early work by Alice Munro, Richard Ford, and Louise Erdrich.
Wilkins is also the author of four poetry collections, most recently Thieve and When We Were Birds, winner of the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry, and hiis work has appeared in a host of the nation’s leading magazines and literary journals, including The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Orion, Copper Nickel, TriQuarterly, Ecotone, The Sun, and High Country News. 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’s work has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Magazine Writing, New Poets of the American West, and multiple editions of Best New Poets, and his work has earned strong reviews at The Wall Street Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, The Oregonian, High Country News, Outside, Southern Living, The National Review, Orion, and The Missoulian. Of Wilkins’s work, the judges for the GLCA New Writers Award write:
The Big Dry of eastern Montana makes for a subject of rich complexity. Joe Wilkins evokes place like Willa Cather. That is, place begins as a kind of raw, wide-open poetry. But Wilkins tells a different story. This is about the author’s search for a model of fatherhood, to fill spaces left empty by the death of his father. Wilkins strikes with staggering, melancholy, progressively self-reflective prose that, in part, inhabits the sparseness of the part of Montana where he was born and grew up. Yet his prose also pushes against what might be considered the standard fare of writing fixed in the American West. He addresses memory and the inability to remember in lyrical prose that is, at times, achingly beautiful yet never pretentious or sentimental and never cold. With exquisite control at both the structural and sentence level, he displays both a surety and openness to question, particularly with regard to class and masculinity without theorizing or naming them as such.-Judge’s Citation, 2014 GLCA New Writers Award in Nonfiction
Wilkins spent the first nineteen years of his life on a sheep and hay ranch in eastern Montana. After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in engineering, Wilkins 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 family in the foothills of the Coast Range of western Oregon, where he directs the creative program at Linfield College.