Todd Boss’s verse is spare, taut, and permeated with love.
Poetry books often seem guilty of false advertising because the rave reviews on the dust jacket don’t match the writing inside. Then a collection like Yellowrocket comes along and readers are reminded just how good poetry can be.
Todd Boss’s work is a lot like the plant after which it is named: Both thrive in bare, disturbed soil and produce bright blooms even after repeated mowings. Yet while one “stained the palms/ and reeked when/ you pulled it,” the other leaves an invisible mark that makes the reader feel vibrant and alive.
Boss achieves that feat by balancing raw beauty with traditionally poetic topics: growing up on a farm, marriage, and fatherhood.
The “soil” he tills – the human heart – could easily produce saccharin, trite verse. Instead, Boss’s writing aches with subtle music, insight, and clearsighted compassion.
Or, as he says, “call it love,/ but if you call it love,/ call it a love that/ persisted.”
That love permeates every poem, as does Boss’s attention to detail. He sees what others often miss, as in “Wood Burning,” where he describes his hard-working father
opening the cold
and stubborn iron heart of the house,
turning the fact of
newsprint and tinder
into a kind of prayer
for our warming –
his first tender act
of the morning.
Any subject – a sleeping child, trees, mannequins in a dress shop – can spark imagery so apt and surprising that the words seem to shimmer. Take, for example, these lines from “The Day is Gray and the Lake”:
like modeling clay,
the million thumbs
of wind at work upon it,
the artist unable to come
to a single conclusion.
Just what shape should
this cold lake take