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.

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