Review: Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse by Jake Tringali

Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse by Jake Tringali
Transcendent Zero Press, August 2018
Review by Miles White

Jake Tringali is a poet based in Boston. Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse is his first collection of poetry. His poem “inside a salem parlor” was published in the Spring 2016 issue of Euphony Journal.  

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I think Jake Tringali wants to scare me a little.  Within the first ten pages of Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse there are three different sorts of black magic, and the universe as we know it peters out twice—it only gets stranger from there.

Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse is a deliberate and fiercely individual challenge to the limits of the canon. Tringali’s subjects span from the beauty and community of punk shows to the loneliness and hollowness of deep space. There are strange performances; there are meditations on soft flesh and hard liquor.  Stifling cityscapes are drawn in the same sharp lines as the planet Mars. The world ends, again and again, in ice and in fire. A lot happens.

It’s to Tringali’s credit that his works hold together as well as they do—he threads motifs and images through different poems, even as he ping-pongs through different scenes and songs.The style—an earthy free-verse, wordy and winding, with brief digressions into rhyme and longer excursions into prose-poetry—holds firm.

Admittedly, it serves some subjects better than others. Several poems trade the singular preoccupations of Tringali’s best work for widescreen eschatologies and heavy metaphysical meditations. These poems suffer for their scope. They lose the lived-in vitality of his more personal verses.

The best poems are character pieces. Tringali excels at drawing out memorable moments and moods from the personalities he writes: “inside a salem parlor” conjures the cynicism of a twenty-first-century witch; “dungeon dark” trembles with tangible desire. “futuristic yarns about cowboys” plays with both genre and character, casting that old Western archetype into that lonesome final frontier. These are people who laugh and cry and want and feel and have strange, strange conversations, and every time Tringali opens windows into their lives, they’re always doing something. Something exciting.

The best poem in the collection—the one where Tringali lets loose all of his best habits—is the long, lingering “i want to be pieced onto my beloved.” The poet’s prose blooms as he and his lover wind wild across their stage, bound and spilling blood. Their dance is a love song, a performance, an ode to the arts of the body. The verse is sharp and shocking and a little seductive. It’s utterly engrossing.

To read Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse from front to back is to settle into that unsettledness.  Tringali wants to provoke, to challenge—to replace the common subjects of verse with those things which he holds dear. As he pulls us ever further into his own world, his work grows ever more compelling—until at last his dreams are as familiar to us as they are to him, and we return from Tringali’s reveries to our own worlds, wondering at the inner lives of other readers.

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