Donald Junkins at University of Massachusetts, 2013

Donald Junkins at the Old Chapel of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2013

Donald Junkins is a scholar and writer of international reputation who has won three National Endowment for the Arts awards in poetry; has won a Fulbright Professorship in Xiamen, China; has taught in universities in L’Viv, Ukraine; Freiburg (twice) and Frankfurt in Germany and Perugia in Italy, and directed the International Hemingway Conference in Bimini, Bahamas. He is one of the original founding members of the Hemingway Society on Thomson Island in Boston Harbor in 1980, of which he has been a member for thirty years and has published fifteen essays on various aspects of Hemingway’s life and writing.

Junkins’ creative writing career began at BU while earning two graduate degrees in Boston University School of Theology and a masters and PhD degree in American literature. He took creative writing seminars with poet Robert Lowell (also attended by the writers Anne Sexton, George Starbuck, and Henry Braun) in the late 1950’s. Junkins has published poetry in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, and forty five other journals. His prizes also include the First and Grand Prize for poems in New Letters. His translation of Euripides’ Andromache appears in the Penn Greek Drama Series and in the New York Times’ review was singled out for its excellence.

Junkins’ nonfiction books include a volume of letters titled Buster’s [his brother] Book, a memoir with hundreds of letters to and from family veterans during World War I, II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Junkins also published a fourteen months-long journal/memoir of a family stay on Swans Island off the Maine coast in the mid-seventies. His most recent publication is Burning the Leaves, an eight-year collection of 150 sonnets plus an essay and interview about his writing and teaching technique and his aesthetic theory.

Two novels, Half Hitch and Orchards of Almonds are semi-autobiographical accounts of his childhood and young manhood in New England and his political and academic sojourn in California during the early sixties.

Junkins taught at UMass for thirty years, directing the Master of Fine Arts Program in English for ten of those years. He has been the co-poetry editor of the Massachusetts Review as well as the poetry editor of the North Dakota Quarterly.
At the University of Massachusetts in his senior year, Junkins set the football seasonal record for pass interceptions.

In May and June of 1968, he was county chairman for Robert Kennedy for President, in Lancaster County, Nebraska and Contra Costa County, California. On the day before Kennedy was fatally shot, he brought Robert Kennedy into the Concord airport and introduced him to a crowd of thousands, then after Kennedy’s American Airlines plane took off for Los Angeles, drove to  neighboring Pittsburgh where he introduced Senator Ted Kennedy .

Of Junkins’ novel Half Hitch, Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, has written, “In Half Hitch, Donald Junkins, a gifted poet, makes a fascinating and energetic excursion into fiction. The result is a novel that perfectly captures an American era and the story of a life caught in its baffling attitudes toward manhood, religion, and sex.”

About his poems, Philip Levine, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, has written, “I find [Junkins’] craft often so sure that there is no need to draw the reader’s attention to it.
“. . . American poetry has in the last fifteen or twenty years veered so far into stagecraft, grand opera, pure nonsense, deliberate obscurity passing for profundity that it was incredibly refreshing to read poems sculpted out of life, memory and language. . . .”

From The New York Times Sunday Book Review:

If poems are successful when their execution perfectly fulfills the aims of their writers, this new collection (Crossing by Ferry) by Donald Junkins leaves little room for complaint. Given the generally relaxed standards of technique in American poetry today, this book is carefully, even lovingly written. History, especially his own family history, is Mr. Junkins’ presiding theme. He moves from present to past with a liquid ease that can be beautiful. One cannot but admire the versatility with which Mr. Junkins combines the freedom of his prose-like diction with the discipline of poetic forms. In our bureaucratic and myth-free world, the self and its roots in a cherished past seem to have taken on an especially tender and vulnerable significance. "


On Journey to the Corrida:

In his ninth book of poems, we see again the unmistakable Junkins poise and persistence in pursuit of suppressed connections, hidden emotions and runaway home truths. Stylistic brilliance enables him to capture the slow accretion, the sudden jolt, the sheer thrill of the mind grasping what is simultaneously happening within and outside itself. Poems that begin as benign or quirky intimations in a real landscape he sees through to some haunting destinations, always mindful of his own newly-minted proverb: ‘In dreams the dead talk/ straight to the heart.’ Junkins’ Corrida is a gutsy and elegant performance.”

   --Robert Bagg, Horsegod, Body Blows, The Scrawny Sonnets,

© Donald Junkins

New Yorker Cover 1962


The clouds were fishbone
high. Downwind.
From the pond
water color rose toward the sun
like heat, and voices
carried from a boat.
Four feet from shore
two executive bass
meandered by,
bored by bait
and waiting.

a crawfish backed
from underneath a rock;
a boy amused his girl
by skipping stones
across the cove;
a lone Canada goose
dove under; some cloven crows
flapped out of a pine
like a frayed black bow

Summer had closed
in. At dusk
the waterfront began
to clear; tiptoeing
bathers crossed the gravel
to their cars. Kibbies
cupped their noses
up for flies and
popped the watertop. A band
of blacks with a banjo
settled in.

The smell
of warm fresh water
wafted toward the shore;
across the cove where
Thoreau built his
hut, seventy frogs
were bulling:
The night was opening
like a cotyledon.


Donald Junkins

The New Yorker, 1962