When We Were Birds: Poems
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"Full of imaginative novelty as well as reminders that miraculous secrets are hidden in the fabric of everyday life . . . these poems show us the truth and even the dignity of ordinary experience."--Billy Collins
"This gritty collection from Joe Wilkins showcases how the outdoors can be a classroom for all matters of the heart: it sneaks devastating truths and disjunctions into soil and shattered rivers, into places where 'a vole snouts / through my throat, where a tree frog's scream / fills my heart's dark riffle.' When We Were Birds doesn't just contemplate all ruin and hard work, where 'the backs of my hands / had lustered clear to burlap or dry river mud, ' but also masterfully showcases a magnificent spill and glide of beautiful language even if the speaker begs, 'O god/of busted wishes/ leave me here a long time here/ in the stinking dark.'"
"Love--or something like it--is everywhere in Wilkins' lines, a bright-eyed beast in its own right, marred and unpredictable, dragging barbed wire and dead fish and slim-hipped girls and the brokenness of the world. It is irresistible. It calls to us. It reminds us there is nothing for us to do but tear into these words like the hungry dogs we are and find ourselves filled."
"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."