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JOSEPH MILLAR'S first collection, Overtime was a finalist for the 2001 Oregon Book Award. His second collection, Fortune, appeared in 2007, followed by a third, Blue Rust, in 2012.

Millar grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Johns Hopkins University before spending 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. It would be two decades before he returned to poetry. His workstark, clean, unsparingrecords the narrative of a life fully lived among fathers, sons, brothers, daughters, weddings and divorce, men and women.

He has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a 2008 Pushcart Prize and has appeared in such magazines as DoubleTake, TriQuarterly, The Southern Review, APR, and Ploughshares.  Millar teaches in Pacific University's low-residency MFA.

Sample Poems


Because nothing I see this morning
brings us closer to spring,
snow falling out of the Jersey sky
into the cloudy river,
wet shoes facing toe-in,
uppers spotted with rock salt

and because each sound signifies winter --
wind in the wires and the far-off train
like the voice of a child
circling the planet
looking for a place to be born --

I spread out the mustard
like a gold map
over the slabs of rye
and lay down the sliced mozzarella
holding the tomatoes for last

because they are acid and red
and grow on a clustered vine
staked up in a cage
in another country
of sunlight and olives

where children run barefoot
chasing a rusty bicycle rim
and the grass clumps up
through cracks  in the bricks
next to a stone bridge scaled
with gray lichen, and the warm earth
swollen with black truffle fungi,
smells of bay leaves and wine.


So the coffee would stay hot all morning
Edna, the large-boned Dutch waitress,
her face and throat flushed from the heat
would first fill my thermos with boiling water
in the Circle Diner on Kutztown Road,
this July morning steamy and loud
with a highway crew at the counter,
two grizzled mailmen in the side booth
and us from the nearby construction site,
a job I loved for its noise and fresh air,
screwing big lag bolts into the sills
of Caloric Stove's new factory warehouse,
the whirr of the countersink drilling the wood,
clean white hemlock or spruce

and when one of the mailmen heads for the door
Edna calls out to him Hey Jack
how you think Frank's feeling this morning?

Smoke from the grill and the cook's cigar
clouding the wide glass window:
Frank, 20 years her senior,
stepping from Sam Giancana's limo
or else whispering One For My Baby
into the spotlight: his death
in his voice with its flawless control,
his slanted fedora and raincoat,
his glittering life we could only imagine

though most of us are laughing by now
wolfing our hot cakes and eggs
when the old man yells back, Tired as hell!
pulling his hat down low at the door,
happy enough to be going to work
on a Friday under the dawnwashed sky
of Johnson's Great Society,
with the Lehigh Valley opening its thighs
and the weekend gorged with promise.