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Todd Boss’s verse is spare, taut, and permeated with love.

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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

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”:


Those descriptions, like others in the book, are stunning, memorable, because they work on the eye, the ear, and the spine. You can almost feel the hair on your neck rising as you read.


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