November 1, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Joe Wilkins continues his portraiture of the American West with his new poetry collection Notes from the Journey Westward, winner of the 2012 White Pine Poetry Prize. These poems paint a western landscape both natural and human, one unromanticized yet filled with both darkness and beauty.
Traci Brimhall wrote of the book:
"Wilkins' poems are savage and beautiful, full of hard-won lives and a godawful tenderness. In this book Manifest Destiny is more than political rhetoric—it's a call to find the limits of survival. It has dust-stunned men, hardscrabble women, and a patient devil, sharpening his teeth."
In many ways, Notes from the Journey Westward, my second full-length collection of poems, can be read as the second and final installment of the poetic project I began with Killing the Murnion Dogs. Both books begin in the high plains of eastern Montana and then travel miles across the American interior, and both grapple with similar questions—what myths have made us? might we find a way to live with loss? what is it that pulls us, always, farther west?
Yet Notes from the Journey Westward is a fiercer, more insistent book. The voices here—doomed pioneers, an aging Butch Cassidy, and an AM radio preacher, among others—are pitched higher, more rageful and wondering, though the answers they demand are seldom offered. Notes from the Journey Westward ranges more widely, too, both stylistically and thematically, excavating the past as well as the last years of Bush presidency, grappling with theodicy and, by the end, quieting, finding some few things to claim and believe in.
And so, for this Notes from the Journey Westward playlist, I've tried to put together a mix of songs that mirrors and deepens this fierce, various journey west.
Lucinda Williams, "West"
Lucero, "That Much Further West"
The Gaslight Anthem, "High Lonesome"
Gram Parsons, "Return of the Grievous Angel"
Hank Williams, "Lost Highway"
Bob Dylan, ‘Tangled up in Blue"
The Be Good Tanyas, "Light Enough to Travel"
Mary Gauthier, "Can't Find the Way"
The National, "Mr. November"
Josh Ritter, "Good Man"
Steve Earle w/ Lucinda Williams "You're Still Standin' There"
Joe Wilkins and Notes from the Journey Westward links:
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