For Joe Wilkins, "it's going to be a big year."

Wilkins, an assistant professor of creative writing at Waldorf, will hold a reading of his newly published collection of poetry, "Killing the Murnion Dogs" at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 29 at in the Salveson Ballroom.

"For a poet, getting that first book is like getting the keys to the car," Wilkins said.

The book focuses on landscape, rural places, loss and poverty, and "the Montana of my youth," he said.

The title poem is the longest in the collection and tells the story of an event of Wilkins' childhood, when the neighbors' dogs attacked his family's sheep. It was then understood that the dogs must also die.

"It's the code of the West," Wilkins said, of the updated pastoral elegy.

Wilkins described his poems as "accessible" and "easy to hang on to."

"A lot of contemporary poetry is very difficult," he said. "But that tends not to be what I write."

Wilkins has also experienced success in prose writing, and will publish a memoir in March. Another collection of poems will follow in winter 2012.

His success is important for students to witness, said Suzanne Falck-Yi, associate professor of English and chairwoman of the English department at Waldorf.

"It's significant for students to be able to work with someone who works with poetry, but can tell of his own experiences with publishing," Falck-Yi said. "it's a great model for students to see."

Falck-Yi has used Wilkins' work in her own classroom and described his poetry as "finely tuned," "beautiful," and "new."

Wilkins also believes in the importance of empathizing with his students during the writing process, and "erasing the wall" between student and teacher.

"It's important that you and the student are part of the journey together," he said.

Copies of the book will be available after the reading for purchase and signing. "Killing the Murnion Dogs" will also be available at Bookadee and the Waldorf Bookstore.



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