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Commonplace Invasions
February 2014


Jo Pitkin

ISBN: 978-1-910669-68-6

Page Count: 80

Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Cover Artwork: Image: Albert Pinkham Ryder, American, 1847-1917 Constance, 1896 (detail) Oil on canvas 70.8 x 90.49 cm (27 7/8 x 35 5/8 in.) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston A. Shuman Collection-Abraham Shuman Fund, 45.770 Photograph © 2017 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Click to play audio Jo Pitkin reads the title poem from her collection... play
Click to play audio Jo Pitkin reads "Gift" from her collection Renderi... play

About this Book

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.” 

Jo Pitkin’s Rendering is the story of a love affair, told through poems that are in love with language. Compulsively readable, Pitkin explores a relationship— and a self—born of “want, water, grit, salt, luck.” In these poems the exterior and interior landscape is equally lush, equally wild and crafted, such that the title poem’s depiction of a painter at work describes this entire collection: “Spark. Flame. The drum of avid concentration.”   
Suzanne Cleary
Author of Beauty Mark

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

Author Biography

Jo Pitkin earned a BA in Creative Writing and Literature from Kirkland College and an MFA in Poetry from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Measure (Finishing Line Press), Cradle of the American Circus: Poems from Somers, New York (The History Press), and Commonplace Invasions (Salmon Poetry) and editor of Lost Orchard: Prose and Poetry from the Kirkland College Community (State University of New York Press). Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including The New York Review of Books, Little Star, Quarterly West, Salamander, Southern Humanities Review, Terrain, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod International Journal, A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley, Even the Daybreak: 35 Years of Salmon Poetry, and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. After working as an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company, Jo pursued a career as a freelance writer for educational publishers throughout the United States. She lives and works in New York’s Hudson River Valley at the river’s narrowest and deepest point.

Read a sample from this book


The whole month of October, over and over, 
he paints her: gold dust of bees, red ocher,

egg glair, titanium dioxide, indigo, madder, 
a dilution of murex, acacia gum, oil of flax.

Spark. Flame. The drum of avid concentration.

With weasel-hair brush, he paints her, nothing 
but her, daubed and dipped half smile, dark blue

eyes, calcimine skin, resinous cascade of hair. 
In fly-wing strokes and dabs, he reins in a lash,

chocolate-colored mole, fast pulse, a murmur, 
spidery red webs and nodes, a germ, stray fibers.

He holds the canvas like stretched skin on a frame. 
Turps his smeared fingers. Wraps his cleansed

palette knife back into its burlap hive. When at last 
he unveils his finished Portrait of Jo, nothing is there.


That leaf from a foreign maple you picked up, 
carried, and airmailed back to me desiccates

now in its cream envelope. Stowed blood drop, 
dross, remnant, replica, relic, memento, avatar,

talisman, the thing itself not as it once was—flat, 
shiny—even my memory of its essence altered.

Each stringy fiber, doubled rib, stalky petiole 
released by transmutation at last wings, wafts,

wheels like paper in the loose weave of the air.

All poems copyright © Jo Pitkin 2017

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