"Joe Wilkins is a writer of great power and heart, and Fall Back Down When I Die is a riveting and timely novel.” – Jess Walter, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins
“Thieve” by Joe Wilkins, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, is a powerhouse collection. Unyielding, visceral, imaginative, and rendered with galvanic precision, the poems thunder along through gritty geographies of place and psyche, revealing the ruptures created by divides in both.
Of particular delight is the overarching arrangement. Several of the poem titles recur, including “Poem Against the Crumbling of the Republic,” “Explain” and “Lost Boys of the Upper Great Plains.” These run as distinctive currents throughout and lend to an overall gestalt as satisfying as a fine musical album that leaves thrum and echo in its wake.
I cannot overstate how delicious the reading experience is, one to be savored in a single sitting – a rare feat enhanced by the author’s panoramic prosody opening multiple avenues to enter the poems.
The literary community in Oregon is diverse and vibrant, and I’m just as pleased as can be to be a part of it–and that Thieve is a finalist for the 2021 Oregon Book Award! A powerhouse group of writers being recognized this year, including my friend and Linfield University colleague Nick Buccola, for his amazing The Fire Is Upon Us.
A big thanks to Michael Garrigan and everyone at Terrain.org for this stunning review of Thieve. Loads of good stuff here, but this may be my favorite bit:
Through our pain, Wilkins shows us that we might find compassion and love, and that’s precisely what Thieve provides—a map exploring the parts of our world that no one else wants, the communities we may have forgotten, and we are all the richer for it. As readers, it is up to us to take what has been neglected or ignored and do the necessary work to realize and honor that beauty and value. We must find deeper connections to each other and our shared histories and landscapes if we are to survive.
My fourth collection of poetry, Thieve, is here! Big thanks to Chris Howell and everyone at Lynx House Press for bringing this one into the world! Here’s a bit more about it:
Joe Wilkins, winner of the Oregon Book Award and the High Plains Book Award, returns with his fourth book of poetry, Thieve, his most ambitious collection yet.
Thieve is a pointed, political book, though the politics here are local, particular, physically felt. The central sequence―all subtitled “Poem against the Crumbling of the Republic”―was written in direct response to the Wilkins’s own transition from rural poverty in eastern Montana to coastal liberal comfort in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, as well as the presidential election of 2016, which brought to the national consciousness the grave division in American society between urban and rural people. Thieve is Wilkins’s poetic attempt, as someone who knows/has known both worlds, to speak across that chasm.
Thieve also interrogates chasms and barriers between the human and the natural, the present and the past, the parent and the child, between what we earn and what by grace is given.
Joe Wilkins’s poems, several of which are aptly subtitled “Poem Against the Crumbling of the Republic,” connect us by fragile threads to a past, a Western past that’s a stand in for our larger American past: the hardscrabble and hardworking, a grace and gratitude for what came before, and for what needs further reckoning, or mercy.
-Nance Van Winckel, author of Our Foreigner and Book of No Ledge