Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Todd Boss

A while ago, a friend of mine told me that he had encountered a Wisconsin poet named Todd Boss at some workshop he had attended. Unfortunately, it took me some time before I finally got around to performing the most cursory Google search and locating some of his work. Sure, it seems that he has a penchant for beginning the poem with the title, but unless you can't stand being reminded of cummings or Moore when reading some concrete poetry it shouldn't bother you. When he really gets going, Boss manages to hit a musicality in his verse that is reminiscent of rapping - or, if that's too pop-culture, you could say it's almost Skeltonic. Take, for example, this passage from "Apple Slices," which I'll quote mercilessly and without permission (after all, the author has it on his publicity website):
                  "and our
brief and silent pick-
up tailgate lunch-
box lunch breaks
of link sausage,
longhorn cheddar,
larder pickles, cold
leftover roast-beef-
and-butter sandwiches
wrapped in paper,"
The even plodding of syllables produces a tongue twister-esque contraction of meter that pops over the line break between "box lunch breaks / of link sausage." From there on, the meter begins a period of expansion carried by the sheer inertia of the first four lines of the stanza. It's fitting that the entire stanza ends with an ellipsis, because a more forceful piece of punctuation might break trying to bring the meter to a full stop.

Eventually, when speaking about another living poet's work there's a point beyond which one can only really say, "it's just good." I think that applies to Todd Boss, whose debut full-length Yellowrocket: Poems has won all sorts of attention. It's just good.

Hey, ho the wind and the rain

It's windy this morning. Yesterday I indulged my love of manila envelopes again by printing and mailing off my entry for the WRWA Jade Ring contest - which actually will now be receiving submissions in all categories until June 30th. The poems that made it were "Economics," "Bottling Day," "Trub," and "To an Italian Housewife." I expect that the announcements to category winners will go out sometime in August to allow travel plans to the conference in Stevens Point to be arranged. August is shaping up to be quite the month.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


My son selects books for me to read as a way of telling me that the bookshelf is too messy. I have a few stacks that have piled up horizontally in front of the books that are properly at home on the shelves and he will try to reorganize them so that it doesn't look so spring-smidge. The other day he pulled down an introduction to Ezra Pound written by a Franciscan sister and literature professor - I didn't even know I had such as book. It begins with a biographical sketch following the advice of St. Augustine, "Love so that you may understand." Needless to say, a number of events in E.P.'s life were glossed over - little mention was made of his support for Mussolini while his imprisonment at St. Elizabeth's was discussed. However, its efforts to flesh out an intellectual biography for the man that illuminates his attitudes and tropes were relatively unhindered by such omissions. Reading about the lives of poets makes me all the more eager to write and publish, even when the poems are far between.

Two entries went out last week for the Milwaukee Irish Fest poetry contests. Filling manila envelopes with freshly printed manuscripts fills me with an absurd pleasure. Perhaps I should have been a bureaucrat somewhere? Four more poems will be making their way into the post to join the pool of poems considered for the Wisconsin Regional Writer's Association's Jade Ring Contest.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Yesterday I finally broke my dry spell, which had gone back all the way to Good Friday. Two burst out, one after the other, and I'm pleased with the way they turned out. I'm still building up my store of unpublished work to enter in various contests. Again I'm salvaging the micro-collection of place name poems that I wrote (that I mentioned back in April). I've selected two pieces to submit to the Milwaukee Irish Fest's two poetry contests - the Goodwin Prize and the Gahagan Prize. They were inspired by the Irish poetical tradition of dinnseanchas, poems that recall the origins of place-names and the history of those places. Those should be in the mail soon.

I also intend on having entries out for the Wisconsin Regional Writer's Association's Jade Ring contest and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poet's Triad contest, both have deadlines this summer.