Thieve

***Winner of the Blue Lynx Prize in Poetry***

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

Previous Praise for the Poetry of Joe Wilkins

Joe Wilkins’ laconic poems run deep, producing spine-tingling evocations of the land and home and family that you’ll want to return to again and again. 

-The Oregonian

Visionary […], relentlessly honest […], and reverent before stars and morning, before the earth and the people who have survived on it.

-The Billings Gazette

The most striking component of [Wilkins’s work] 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 Indiana Review

When We Were Birds possesses the kind of vision and verve reserved for those who have a hallowed conception of our journey on earth. I cannot recall such a book in recent memory that has me read with such careful attention to my breathing or reminded me of the aliveness of poetry in our age. Reading When We Were Birds leaves me hankering for the complex richness of our shared humanity, which I secretly think is Wilkins’s great agenda for his art, and nothing less. 

-Major Jackson, Citation for the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry

No matter where Wilkins’ travels find him, his approach to the world is the same. He’s perceptive, reverent, big-hearted, but also angry, sad, lost and grieving. […] In certain poems we find a bird’s-eye view, soaring, untrammeled, light as air. And in others we are undeniably earthbound, with grit in our teeth and eyes, our knuckles and knees bloody and stinging. 

-The Missoula Independent

If you want to read what matters, read Joe Wilkins. 

-Tupelo Quarterly

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