The Tornado Is the World

Catherine Pierce. Saturnalia (UPNE, dist.), $16 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-0-9962206-6-8
In her third collection, Pierce (The Girls of Peculiar) confronts various forms of fear and anxiety that can intrude on one’s seemingly placid and satisfied, yet “absurdly flimsy life.” The collection blossomed from an event that Pierce records in the penultimate poem, in which she writes, “once, in a Days Inn bathroom in Cullman, Alabama,/ I covered my four-month-old son as my husband/ covered me as the tornado went by.” It’s the type of life-altering scenario that can both cause a person to feel newly thankful for what they have and to see danger everywhere. In this light and with delightful imagination, Pierce explores diverging memories as well as a series of imaginary vacation scenarios experienced by a protagonist called “the unabashed tourist.” In “An Apologia for Taking Things for Granted,” she confesses, “I resolve to see everything/ in Technicolor, to hold each click of a switch,/ each pollen-thick day in my hands and know/ its true weight.” However, the stamina and focus needed to sustain this sense of wonder can be paralyzing, which is perhaps why Pierce continually returns to the terrifying experience at the Days Inn. Pierce’s tornado, with its hunger and unsettlingly human compassion, will make readers feel like a mother stepping out in its wake—into a “new, world-strewn world.” (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2016
Release date: 12/01/2016
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