Most well-known for his prose poems, Louis Jenkins was born in Oklahoma in 1942. Using wry humor and witty observations, he carefully disassembles the mundane moments of our everyday lives and makes them extraordinary.
Jenkins has lived in Minnesota for the last thirty years and has published a number of poetry collections, the first in 1970 titled Before You Know It. He has been called one of the finest poets of his generation and won the Minnesota Book Award for his collection Just Above the Water.
Louis Jenkins elected to concentrate on prose poems because they offered more flexibility for exploring the situations he wanted to write about. He follows in the footsteps of many illustrious poets including Rimbaud, Wilde and Borges who all used it to great effect. He began writing prose poetry after he read some of Baudelaire’s work which was composed in the mid-19th Century.
At the time Jenkins began writing prose, in the 70s, they were a relatively popular form of poetry though their appeal seemed to die out in the 80s in favor of other styles. Jenkins, however, has continued to write them with his inimitable style. Jenkins strongly believes that all poetry depends on the art of storytelling and much of his work derives from normal, everyday stories that he then expands on.
Jenkins prose poems generally stretch to no more than a page, and are usually just a paragraph in length, such as Big Brown Pills which explores his dependence on cholesterol lowering medication and having to live a healthy lifestyle in his later years. He explores the meaning of life in the ordinary, such as in his poem Afterlife, from the 2007 collection North of the Cities, where an old couple discuss their life as though it were a movie without much of a plot.
Jenkins collection The Winter Road, published in 2000, is typical of his style and wit, exploring the issue of memory and how it effects the way we see the world. Many of his works have been performed on the Garrison Keillor Radio Show where his prose slips between the ironic and mundane to the magical and surreal, all laced with a fair dose of sardonic wit.
One of his most recent collections, The Tin Flag, again looks for beauty in the mundane and ties in with the play Nice Fish that he wrote in collaboration with author Mark Rylance in 2013.
His work has also appeared in many anthologies including The Best American Poetry 1999. He continues to write and still lives in Duluth, Minnesota.