Dr. Johnny Wink, Betty Burton Peck Professor of English at Ouachita Baptist University, has released a new poetry collection, Seven Ways to Prune a Grapefruit, with European publisher Unsettling Wonder, an imprint of Papaveria Press.
The book of lyric poems was edited by one of Wink’s former students, 2007 Ouachita alumnus Dr. Joshua Richards, and is the inaugural title in the imprint’s line of mythic art books.
“I’m happy to say it’s as funny and wise and thoughtful and intelligent as anything Dr. Wink’s written,” said Dr. John Patrick Pazdziora, general editor at Unsettling Wonder. “It’s a tremendous collection by a truly unique and special poet.”
“Dr. Wink has been a campus treasure for many years as a teacher and poet,” added Dr. Jeff Root, dean of Ouachita’s School of Humanities. “He has been a major influence on countless students through the years, and this new collection will be a notable addition to his legacy.”
Wink previously published another volume of poetry, Haunting the Winerunner, through August House Press in Little Rock, Ark., in the 1980s, but it has been out of print for some time.
“Having for the most part lost interest in publishing, I have contented myself for many years now with writing poems for the sheer fun of it,” Wink said. “Every once in a blue moon I’ll try my luck by sending a poem to a magazine. I have, however, had no thought of trying to get another book out.”
It was Wink’s correspondence with Richards that led to the contract with Unsettling Wonder. Since graduating from Ouachita, Richards completed graduate studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where he connected with the publisher. He currently serves as assistant professor of English at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
“Once Dr. Pazdziora brought me on to serve as poetry editor for Unsettling Wonder, I immediately sought one of my favorite poems by him for inclusion in our inaugural issue,” Richards said. “It was received so positively that we decided to commission a full volume of Dr. Wink’s work. The process of selecting and editing poems, especially with an author as good-natured as Dr. Wink, was a truly delightful experience.”
This connection to his students is one reason Wink holds an almost legendary status among Ouachitonians.
“Friend and colleague, Johnny Wink delights his students and fellow teachers at OBU with stories, jokes, daily words, nicknames and poems,” said Dr. Doug Sonheim, chair of Ouachita’s Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages.
Wink added that these relationships are also the basis for his ongoing work.
“My colleagues, my students, my classroom experiences, the books I read in connection with my work – all these have been my muses,” Wink said. “I can’t imagine that there’s ever been a person luckier in his profession than I. Working at Ouachita for nigh on to 40 years now has been a profoundly pleasant experience.”
“Reading a Johnny Wink poem, you are delighted, tickled, puzzled, moved, thankful and made wiser,” Sonheim added. “You read a poem, blink your eyes and scratch your head, grin and ponder. With Seven Ways to Prune a Grapefruit, the world is a livelier, better place.”
The book is a limited edition hardback, and orders may only be made through August 19 at www.unsettlingwonder.com. For more information, contact OBU’s news bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or (870) 245-5208.
By Brooke Zimny