If I were ever inclined to tear covers off books, I would do it to this one. Dull brown with a grainy black tree photo and a title that is too uninspired for such a dense work of emotions, The Storm that Killed the Tree is plainly not a good name. I'm not questioning that it happened, because trees get knocked down in storms constantly, but a little personification does not a good title make.
Even though I am anti-The Storm that Killed the Tree for a title, I am pro the poem of a similar name, “The Storm that Killed the Tree That Killed the Cadillac.” Such a fusion of animate and inanimate objects; this is possibly the most superb in the chapbook. One just needs to examine this line, “a splintered fist punches through the windshield its cobwebs, like memories.” The tree posing as a fist, as if it had reason to destroy: cracks turning into cobwebs and memories, and overlaying all this destruction is the image of two lovers embracing through the storm.
This entire chapbook contains poems that take you far from the city into the rich solitude known only from small-town life. In fact, it contains five poems, or 'movements' as author, Lucas Pingel, terms them, called “Suite for a Small Town.” These are fun, well-written poems and I was disappointed Suites for a Small Town was not used as the title.
Even if you weren't from a small town, you can just feel the youth and rebellion in “Suite for a Small Town: Movement V”
And we balance our weight on a crucifix, carefully measuring the distance to leap without slicing our shins, adding to the collection of sun-dried drops of blood that litter the grass with ellipses.” ? pg 27
Pingel has the ability to catch our mind at so many different levels simultaneously, and wraps his words around it in a way few poets can. One beautifully written “Blood Brothers” shows his aptness for verse.
Perhaps only two twin poppies would find their way from the ground and stretch their scarlet petals in a yawn.” ? pg 8
A favorite, not only for the name, but for the sentiment is “I Punched Michael Fleshman”. The atmosphere of innocence and vengeance are present, along with wonderful alliteration and repetition of sounds. Especially, in this last line
listening to the dry leaves that shattered under my sneakers, the dissonant music of defeat.” ? pg 13
Somehow Pingel has managed to tap into a very Americana soul that most of us in the Midwest can relate to. His poems are both powerful and intimate. As chapbooks go, it may not be pretty, but it's definitely one to pick up.
Author's Note: I briefly lived near Lucas Pingel and his wife in Northeast Minneapolis.
Editor’s Note: This chapbook is available from Pudding House Publications