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The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree

Publication Date: May 2011


These are Manhattan poems, down-and-out poems, looking for a job poems, regarding the world from a street corner poems. While wandering the avenues and the parks, a resolution is found, a chance to do the impossible: to put down roots in a rootless concrete world. The unemployed everyman simply becomes a tree.

Listen to Kevin Pilkington read for the Black Lawrence Press Virtual Reading Series // Watch the captioned video on the BLP YouTube Channel



“Kevin Pilkington seems at home wherever he happens to find himself–New York, Greece, Key West. In this rich collection of tender poems, he celebrates the small consolations of daily life that offer spiritual relief in the face of disappointment and loss. Pilkington’s wry, playful humor serves as both weapon and tool. In a world bereft of miracles, he finds instead the sustaining spirit of what might pass for magic. These poems are deceptively modest and casual, offering up their playful jazzy riffs on daily life. There are no easy epiphanies here-just one poet working as hard as he can to get through daily life with dignity and grace.”

-Jim Daniels

The world is vivid and alive in Kevin Pilkington’s new collection of poems, and he catches it in quick transformations, so that we, too, see a distant schooner sail into a bottle, or feel the streets of New York suddenly become as rhythmic as music. By turns bright and dark, close-held and wide-sweeping, these poems beckon for us to scramble out on to the fire escape and stand with the writer watching the world.”

-Rachel Cohen

It’s thrilling to watch a poet create a world-fascinating when it turns out to be the one we live in. Kevin Pilkington’s spare, subversive voice can conjure love from a donut, despair from Bloomingdale’s. In ‘The Cat That Could Fly’ a strange transcendence, made of lies, travels way beyond the self. Reading this beautiful and quietly visceral book, it’s easy to forget each of us lives only once and dies alone.”

-Dennis Nurkse

About the Author

Kevin Pilkington

Kevin Pilkington is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of six collections: Spare Change was the La Jolla Poets Press National Book Award winner; Ready to Eat the Sky was a finalist for an Independent Publishers Books Award; In the Eyes of a Dog won the 2011 New York Book Festival Award; The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree was a Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award finalist. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies including: Birthday Poems: A Celebration, Western Wind, and Contemporary Poetry of New England. Over the years, he has been nominated for four Pushcarts. His poems have appeared in numerous magazines including: The Harvard Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Boston Review, Yankee, Hayden’s Ferry, Columbia, North American Review, etc. He has taught and lectured at numerous colleges and universities including The New School, Manhattanville College, MIT, University of Michigan, Susquehanna University, Saint Vincent College. His debut novel Summer Shares was published in 2012 and a paperback edition was reissued in summer 2014. He recently completed a second novel and is working on a new collection of poems.

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