In late April of 2011 the United States experienced a tornado “Super Outbreak” that spawned 362 tornados in 21 states. It was the largest, costliest, and one of the deadliest ever recorded, resulting in 348 deaths, 328 of which occurred in Alabama. Nationwide, damages totaled 11 billion. April 27th was the worst day of this outbreak resulting in 218 tornado touchdowns. That afternoon an EF4 tornado tracked a 47-mile damage path directly through downtown Cullman, Alabama. 867 residences and 94 businesses were damaged or destroyed, and six people lost their lives in Cullman. Catherine Pierce, a poet from Delaware who co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University, survived the Cullman tornado in a guest room at the Day’s Inn cowering in the bathtub with her husband Mike and their young son, Sam. The Tornado Is the World, her third poetry collection, is her exploration in verse of this experience and its meaning. “With empathy, dazzling insight, and dexterity, Pierce sings in the voice of the tornado and the terrified.” – Simone Muench. “Here menace is a muse, and Catherine Pierce a rousing poet.” – Bob Hicok. “With a jeweler’s eye and an uncanny knack for embracing devastating truths and desires, Pierce rewrites what it means to sift through wreckage of both heart and land. This book is, simply, exquisite.” – Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
The Tornado Is the World by Catherine Pierce. Ardmore, Pennsylvania: Saturnalia Books, 2016. 75 pages. Trade paperback.