Particularly Dangerous Situation
by Patti White
Available January 2020
When I say that it is best to be two-dimensional during a storm, I mean that pieces of paper travel well in the wind. A tornado can carry a photograph 200 miles and set it down without a crumple or tear or even a hint of dampness. So if you cannot hunker down in a safe place you must become as paper. Think of flatness. Extend your arms and press your body to the ground. Then if the tornado takes you, it will bear you up in tendrils of cloud, in long white fingers of condensation. The storm will let you drift and waft and settle like a leaf on a field of cotton. Or on a patch of concrete. In either case, it is better to be light and flat, to be paper, to carry an image of something long past and fading.
When I say that a tornado can carry paper a great distance, I mean that cattle will be transported to another pasture and skinned alive or dead by whirling gravel. That rocking chairs will appear on alien porches and pickets from a wrought-iron fence will arrow into a bed of bearded iris. A crystal teardrop from a chandelier, a boxed set of state quarters, an empty suitcase, a teacup and saucer, these will be caught in a divergent current until dispersed by the collapsing supercell. When I say a tornado can carry paper I mean the updraft will lift trucks high above the ground and crash them down on your head. Trees will be plucked up out of the earth and replanted elsewhere. And no one will know where anything came from. Except for the cancelled checks and receipts and you will see those on television, along with the child's shoe and the skeleton of a cat.
When I speak of these things perhaps you will think of the Biblical rain of frogs. Or the rain of blood that soaked Richard the Lionheart. I tell you these signs and wonders are in fact so commonplace they appear in meteorology textbooks. Frogs get sucked up as a waterspout passes over the pond. Rain becomes infused with Saharan dust or the soot from coal fires or the spores of microalgae. Trentepholia in the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. Iron oxide from dried swamps. The small detritus of the world borne aloft and mixed with the humid air of the Deep South. This is what you will see: A red rain staining your clothes. The frogs sliding off your skin and hopping away.
No one ever forecasts displacements or discolorations. But what I want to tell you is that whatever falls from the sky was once a part of the earth. That some things will fall more slowly or in places more unexpected than others. And that it is well to be two-dimensional in a storm. Think of flatness. Be the paper.
We have a cover for the forthcoming novella by Lee Tyler Williams! (Thanks to Alban Fischer!)
Crisscrossing through the small towns of Argentina to find a rare rock album, a middle-school teacher from Texas is forced to confront his understanding of the past. Through the language of music, Let It Be Our Ruin examines the myths of identity and historic realities. Rumors about a musician whose fame peaked during the Argentine dirty wars and teenage gossip about a high-school friend harmonize with the stories of nations to create a composition about grief, the multiple ways of speaking truth, and the blues.
Coming Soon! Winter 2020!
A devastating tornadic storm hits Alabama after erasing the State of Mississippi. Among the survivors are a distraught weatherman, a woman strapped to a dental chair, a man carrying a dead cat, and a golf-club wielding real-estate agent who encounters the undead. In this experimental novella, White’s poetic prose captures the endless trauma of catastrophe: the physical and emotional disorder, the chaotic and contingent patterns of events. Here, the reader will find no neat resolution. Life after grand-scale destruction and near-death experience is effectively another kind of cyclone: spinning and relentless, a state of free fall through dense and violent clouds.
"The title of Patti White’s Particularly Dangerous Situation may refer to a storm, perhaps even an apocalyptic one. It might refer to some collective delusion, or it might refer to the situation of living in a world that can produce such a storm. In the end, however, White’s dangerous situation comes down to the intellectual and artistic risk this lyrically narrative collection makes: turning disaster into art. White—who lived through a tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 2011—has a survivor’s sense of devastation tempered by an artist’s desire to transform the world. With a poet’s sense of language and gifted storyteller’s pacing, White channels voices (like Faulkner in As I Lay Dying) which provide lenses for understanding a loss that each one struggles to conceive, but the struggle to tell their stories on their terms provides the terra firma of this unique novella. After all, as White writes, '[We] are caught in a narrative that might not be survivable.'” ~ Jeff Newberry, co-author of Cross Country
"Poet Patti White concocts with this stunning and stuttering prose engine, Particularly Dangerous Situation, a Medusa-haired memo war on the fly, a transcript of Traumatic Stress Disorder before it gets a chance to be Post. I kept thinking of what black and white disasters were befalling Kansas when Toto wasn’t there anymore. White’s draining novella is all Coriolis effect and falling isobars of emotion, rich in vortices and bowing echoes of booming syntax. Diaphanous and occluded, the book is a catalogue of jagged and jittery clouds—mackerel smacked, nightmare’s tails, an Old Testament hardware store of hammers and anvils." ~ Michael Martone, author of The Moon Over Wapakoneta and Brooding
"Particularly Dangerous Situation consumes and entrances. In fact I became Jonah in the belly of a twister built by White. Each page—each sentence—is another edge, ledge, ledger, conflagration. And yet for every collapsing absence in this tour-de-force, White's poet-steeped prose wills a luminous architecture by which to know the way. And just as I finished this scorcher, I began it again. There is no finer compliment than that arc traced by leaping back to word one. This is White at her finest. I urge you toward PDS today!" ~ Abraham Smith, author of Destruction of Man
Patti White is the author of four collections of poems, Tackle Box (2002), Yellow Jackets (2007), Chain Link Fence (2013), and Pink Motel (2017), all from Anhinga Press. Recent chapbooks include A is for Aphasia (2013), Kontakion (2014), and District Flood (2014). Her poetry has appeared in journals including Iowa Review, North American Review, River Styx, Nimrod, DIAGRAM, Forklift Ohio, Parcel, McNeese Review, Slippery Elm, Vine Leaves, Waccamaw, and New Madrid; her nonfiction in Gulf Coast and Mulberry Fork Review. She lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
In White's novella-in-poetic-vignettes, Particularly Dangerous Situation, eight speakers, including the weatherman, survive the hours immediately after a storm so destructive that the entire State of Mississippi disappears.
Lee Tyler Williams is the author of the novel, Leechdom (New Plains Press, 2015). His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, published in numerous magazines, and featured on National Public Radio. He was born in Dallas, Texas.
Williams's novella, Let It Be Our Ruin, takes place in Argentina where a Texas middle-school teacher searches for the last album of an obscure musician who was disappeared during Argentina's Dirty War in the 1980s.