Skip to content

What We’re Reading: Todd Boss

2011 September 8

Yellowrocket by Todd Boss (review by Timothy)

I’ve never kept track of how many times I’ve read Todd Boss’ collection, Yellowrocket, but it’s one of very few recent collections that I’ve returned to. Only Kevin Young and Natasha Trethewey have stuck with me as much as Boss has.

Boss’ language is colloquial, but unexpected and often delightful, making use of internal rhyme, assonance, and tangible rhythm. In “She Rings Me Up” he writes about a miscommunication between a customer and a grocery store check out clerk that is endearingly funny, with a twinge of heartbreak:

She’s right, it’s my

diction. I’m back in

the game. I remember

this as flirting: two

people in a confusion

transaction. It’s been

a long time since

I spoke this tongue.

Even in the darker poems the playful language is maintained, as in “Mess” where he writes, “I wrenched away from her, squaring / off. I was pissed. ‘How what?’ I hissed.”

Every time I read Yellowrocket I admire Boss’ command of craft, especially when it comes to form. “Things, Like Dogs” is one of the more elegantly done pieces because the form of the poem enacts the content so beautifully. The lines of the poem consistently stretch halfway across the page, paired in couplets, until

[…] later I found this poem at the back door,

looking softly up at me and wagging

its little tail.

I remember the joy I had in seeing the “little tail” on the end of this poem when I first read it. It felt like the joy the poet felt in knowing “that things, / like dogs, grow fond and want // to be had, to be used, to be played.”

Yellowrocket is Boss’ first complete collection. Boss’ career has been a slow burn, but has exploded in the last few years and will only continue to heat up. He’s a poet to watch in the coming years, so start with this collection, and On Marriage, and you’ll be up to date when his next collection, PITCH, is published in February.


On Marriage by Todd Boss and Katrina Vandenberg (review by Wren)

You already know of my obsession with letterpress and poetry (together and separate). You might already know about my interest in collaborative writing, from this What We’re Reading post and related interview. On Marriage, a collaborative chapbook of poems between Todd Boss and Katrina Vandenberg combines all of these things into one irresistible package.

Writing collaboratively, like marriage, is a joint effort. If both sides don’t listen to the other, it shows. Here, the poems seem effortless, and flow easily from one to another. The pages are full of humor, colloquial language, bare moments of honesty, and a bit of love.

Different from Zachary Schomburg and Emily Kendal Frey, these poems weren’t written together, one by one. Rather, the poets stick to what they’re best at, and go back and forth, resulting in a conversation between two individuals rather than a complete melding of personalities. I don’t have a preference to either, as long as they do it well—it’s just a matter of different approaches. Here, it’s done exceptionally well.

Both Boss and Vandenberg have a conversational, knowing tone. The level of intimacy that both writers achieve through their strengths is wonderful to read. Boss’ humor is there again, his playful syntax and his honesty. An excerpt from “Don’t Come Home:”

“Don’t Come Home”

ranks first among

the worst things

someone you love

can say. Not even

the common “I

hate you” does

the damage “Don’t

come home” will

do. You can live

with “I hate you,”

same as you live

with the past.

You abide it.

Vandenberg’s voice takes the leisurely way around, stopping and checking in with each image and moment individually. It makes her hard to excerpt, because her poems are a complete package, and are best read as such. However, I’ll leave you with this sweet moment from the title poem “On Marriage:”

I like his ease. I have been standing here

inside this window, dust cloth in hand,

for the longest time, and still he has not noticed me

admiring the way he holds his body

three rungs from the ground — leaning his weight

on a stiffened right leg, left moccasin cocked

on the next step up. Slim hips pulled in.

*Did you miss our interview with Todd Boss? Check it out here!


One Response
  1. September 12, 2011

    On Marriage sounds like a fantastic collection and a great thing for writers to do. I will definitely be checking it out.

Comments are closed.