Jo Pitkin



How do we reconcile the uneasy yet inherent tension between our private and our public selves? How does the artist live authentically in a smoke-and-mirrors world rife with spin and branding? Rendering explores what is real and true both in art and in relationships. This new collection of poems by award-winning poet Jo Pitkin—her second from Salmon Poetry—examines illusion, delusion, hypocrisy, and betrayal through the cloudy lens of a transformative love affair. As she peels back her “pentimento selves,” Pitkin’s quest for fidelity and certainty beneath approximation’s translucent layers yields the “pearl of the possible.”

Of course, a poet leans first toward the most heart-rending, rawly skinning connotation of “rendering”: a delivery, a surrender. Something important is yielded, even to the melting point. Sometimes the “destination,” as in the title poem, comes as a complete shock. A self has shifted when we weren’t looking. Unsheltered and unnumbed. The path through passion, for instance, can be marked by “a chipped, mismatched cup”; once you’re there, “Hot, dark grief comes down the throat.” In each of Jo Pitkin’s poems, what isn’t seen at first insists on coming through with willing clarity.

— Sandra McPherson, author of Outline Scribe: New Poems


Commonplace Invasions Book Cover

Commonplace Invasions

Jo Pitkin’s Commonplace Invasions explores contemporary life’s familiar disruptions and unanticipated ambushes, from household chores and iced-over rivers to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and mental illness. Her finely crafted lyric poems—strategically arranged around four timeless warcraft maneuvers—pierce the deceptively calm surface of everyday existence to expose scarred-over wounds borne from skirmishes of modern times. From her vantage point as a 21st-century woman in the fray, Pitkin reveals what is worth fighting for and how the necessary bonds of family and community safeguard, strengthen, and sustain us.

Jo Pitkin’s poems are strong, exact, intensely evocative, and resonate with a lovely inner music. Hers is one of the surest poetic voices to be heard now, and Commonplace Invasions will consolidate her reputation among those who know her work and will bewitch new readers.

— John Banville, author of Ancient Light


Cradle of the American Circus

America’s circus—a spectacle of flying trapeze artists, colorful clowns and trained animal acts under the big top—grew out of the traveling menagerie phenomenon in Somers, New York, in the 1800s. To commemorate this proud local heritage, award-winning poet and Somers native Jo Pitkin presents a collection of poems inspired by the people, events and fantastic ephemera of the glory days of the Somers showmen. Complementing her dazzling lines are essays by regional historians that explain Somers’s unique role as the Cradle of the American Circus. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, step up, step up! The show is about to begin.

An impressively organized work of art, precisely and thoughtfully assembled and resonating with a sense of place-its history and character. This book deserves enthusiastic readers.

— Colette Inez, author of Horseplay


The Measure

Jo Pitkin’s The Measure is itself a measure of lyricism and restraint. Themes of wind and branch and leaf and love inhabit these landscapes and heartscapes — and the earth that lives in these poems seems to offer someone, anyone, genuine points of identification and reassurance. The imagination knows this “pyramidal hierarchy” — Jo Pitkin’s poetry offers a constantly inviting window.

— Michael Burkard, author of lucky coat anywhere


Lost Orchard

A collection of poems, short stories, novel excerpts, creative nonfiction essays, and one-act plays by Kirkland College alumnae, faculty, and administration, Lost Orchard brings together for the first time in print those who shared this exciting, vibrant community. Located in Clinton, New York, the college was founded in 1968 in singular times—at the start of the second wave of feminism and in the midst of profound changes in American society. Kirkland was the last private women’s college created in the United States, and also the last established coordinate college until its tumultuous takeover in 1978 by its partner, Hamilton College. Known for its innovative curriculum, Kirkland empowered young women, fostered independent thought, and pioneered academic disciplines, including American studies, environmental studies, media studies, and creative writing.

Lost Orchard is a paradise regained. How wonderful to have the brilliant and beautiful work of so many talented writers, all once part of the Edenic community that was Kirkland College, collected and preserved. Jo Pitkin’s editorial eye is both acute and sensitive, and I salute and thank her.

— Peter Cameron, author of Coral Glynn: A Novel