Transistor Rodeo

The annual Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry was inaugurated in 2003 to honor the late poet, a nationally recognized writer and former professor at the University of Utah, and is sponsored by the University of Utah Press and the University of Utah Department of English. Transistor Rodeo was selected as the 2009 prize-winning volume by judge Ander Monson, poet, essayist, author of The Available World and Vanishing Point, and editor of DIAGRAM.

Jon Wilkins is a professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His poetry has been published in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Möbius, The Midday Moon, River King Poetry Supplement, Harvard Advocate, Georgia Poetry Review, Abbey, Chaffin Journal, and Moon Reader.

Table of Contents:


It’s in me tiny | 1


Three warm days in January | 5

3:summer’s day:: | 7

Topographical map | 8

Lines composed above Grasmere Lake | 9

Upon hearing news that the government was planning to

   Reintroduce the wolf whistle into Yosemite | 10

Kenneth Koch’s Unfinished Sestina | 11

The parable of the napkin | 13

Theorem: why angels are jealous of humans | 14

II / Prayer

7:34 am, Styrofoam cup, metal table / Prayer | 17

12:42 pm, linen flower, glare off tinted glass / Prayer | 18

3:19 pm, white plaster, white light / Prayer | 19

4:52 pm, asphalt siding, asphalt pavement / Prayer | 20

10:25 pm, wicker basket, mechanical pencil / Prayer | 22

1:17 am, steel can, book jacket / Prayer | 23

Someplace in America

[ ] | 27

[ ] | 28

[ ] | 29

[ ] | 30

Someplace in America | 32

[ ] | 33

[ ] | 34

[ ] | 35

[ ] | 36

[ ] | 37


Love Song | 41

Love Song | 42

Love Song | 43

Love Song | 44

Love Song | 45

Love Song | 46

Love Song | 47

Love Song | 48


Please don’t hate me because I’m perfect | 51

Please don’t hate me because I’m perfect | 52

Please don’t hate me because I’m perfect | 53

Please don’t hate me because I’m perfect | 54

Please don’t hate me because I’m perfect | 55

Please don’t hate me because I’m perfect | 56

Love Song

Love Song | 59

Birthday party for Mr.M | 60

Love Song | 61

Farewell Song | 62

Song | 63

Love Song | 64

Pisan Canto for C.P. | 65

Love Song | 67

Definition of Zero | 68

Acknowledgments | 69

Praise and Reviews:

"More than a prize-winning collection of poetry, Transistor Rodeo provides readers with a sharp view of ordinary life. Throughout the collection, Jon Wilkins creates a world in each poem that is vivid and earnest. Through his light, yet sharp and strikingly analytical verse, Wilkins's poems allow readers to stop and readjust long enough to notice life's invisible landscape and emotional grain."—Apalachee Review

"First off you need to know how much fun Jon Wilkins’s Transistor Rodeo is: a whole lot, a thousand afternoons of brainy, brawling, fragrant, dazzling microscopic daisies. Very few books deliver as much electricity per line, per poem, as this one does, and fewer still can sustain that charge until, crackling, imagination flashes and gives way to beauty. Whether prayer or sonnet, parable, love song, or theorem, or frequently more than one of these, a Wilkins poem ambles and darts, hesitates, notices its surroundings, changes direction, exults, and delivers us into an entirely new place. Are we changed by reading this? I think we are. Wilkins is an alchemist. Wilkins should be your alchemist."—Ander Monson, poet and essayist

“Wilkins is not just fast or flashy; he prays, catalogues, theorizes. . . . If I had been taught prayer or mathematics by Wilkins, I might have stuck with them.  Not because I always agree with him, but because he would keep me fascinated by what was coming next. His ability to keep us off balance and interested is uncanny.”—The Café Press