The son of an Episcopalian minister, Philip Jenks was born in North Carolina and grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia. He earned a BA from Reed College, an MA in creative writing from Boston University, and a PhD in political science from the University of Kentucky. His books of poetry include On the Cave You Live In (2002), My First Painting Will Be “The Accuser” (2005), Disappearing Address (2010, with Simone Muench), and Colony Collapse Metaphor (2014); and the chapbooks How Many of You Are You? (2006), and Little Visceral Carnival (2009, with Simone Muench).
In response to Jenks’s poem “Untitled” (“My pinhole weighs a ton”), poet Dan Beachy-Quick commented, “In Jenks’s work, the bewildering ways in which absence presents itself in word and image, and how presence absents itself by the same means, is poetry’s work.” In a review of On the Cave You Live In, Jon Curley noted, “Jenks coalesces his themes around language which is often peripheral in its presumed scope and oblique in its descriptions. Among the artifacts that compose the Jenks universe: the depredations and dignity of Appalachian life, Biblical glosses and vatic tunings, playfully obscure confessions and catastrophic revelations.”
Jenks' poems have appeared in Chicago Review, Typo, Fence, Cultural Society, H_NGM_N, Canarium, LVNG, and elsewhere. He teaches English at University of Illinois at Chicago and Political Science at Lewis University.