Todd Boss, poet

Arrivals and Departures at St Paul’s Union Depot

Welcome to my most ambitious project to date! Blending my love of poetry with my new-found passion for public art, “Arrivals and Departures” will  install massive screens between the columns of Saint Paul’s Union Depot, onto which I’ll project locally-sourced poems-turned films during the Saint Paul Art Crawl, Oct 2-4, 2014. 

Like the project on Facebook for updates and details. And contribute a poem or donation now through January 15th!

Back in pencil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMinneapolis calligrapher / book restorer Dennis Ruud has created this limited-edition broadside of my poem “The World Is In Pencil,” first published in Poetry magazine. The broadsides are being made to order, one-at-a-time, in shaved carpenter’s pencil, until the calligrapher cries uncle. Each one a unique original. You can order yours now. You might remember a previous edition by Emily Snyder, which recently SOLD OUT.

The pieces are 11″ x 17″, on Stonehenge paper, a high quality archival  paper with some tooth. The red pencil “border lines” come from a medieval geometry for laying out book page margins (double page openings) and text placement.  The title and “Todd Boss” are done with bookbinders brass type a letter at a time. The title is blind stamped then rubbed over with colored conte crayons and graphite stick. Main text is graphite carpenter’s pencil. The three red highlighted words are acrylic ink and pen. “Todd Boss” is stamped through graphite paper (it’s like carbon paper). The smudgy smokey stuff along the side is graphite powder smeared around with broom corn. The whole thing is sprayed with fixative when completed to keep it from smearing. Numbered. Signed by poet and artist. Will ship flat. Suitable for framing. $140 plus $10 shipping.

Want one? Order here:

How to Land a Publisher (in 7 simple steps)


  1. Write what you’d like to read (not what you think they’ll publish).
  2. Submit your poems to POETRY magazine at least once a year, even though your poems are rejected every single time. Do this out of respect because you also read POETRY magazine. Continue for 15 years.
  3. Read and submit to other journals likewise. Same timeline.
  4. Repeat steps two and three but with different results.
  5. Using your published poems alone and without contacting one yourself, inspire a major author (preferably Sherman Alexie) to introduce himself via email, flatter you obsequiously, and offer to get you the attention of an editor at a publishing house (preferably W. W. Norton & Co.).
  6. Book contracts are best paired with beer.
  7. Repeat steps one and four indefinitely.

Note: Results may vary. Tastes are subjective. Timelines may differ. Beer selection process may begin prior to receipt of contract.

The lie that tells the truth

I’m glad I don’t have to deal with a poet in my family.

I am the poet in my family, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with me.

I’m often asked what it’s like to write about my loved ones—about my wife and my parents in particular. I’m quick to point out that poetry has more to do with fiction than with fact. They might be based on my life experiences, but my poems are not wholly autobiographical.

Imagine you had a compulsive liar in your family who lied about you because he discovered other people found beauty in his lies. Or imagine you had a comedian in your family who used you as the butt of your jokes because he loved making people laugh. Imagine you had a pastor in your family who embroidered stories about you in order to inspire his parishioners. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry as prayer.

Here’s a short lecture I gave to the University of Minnesota’s undergraduate creative writing sections last fall. It explores some of my thoughts about poetry as prayer, and relates those thoughts to my recent public art work, “Project 35W,” a collaboration with Swedish artist Maja Spasova. If you want a glimpse into my process or some thoughts about poetry’s role as public art, you might enjoy this presentation. Let me know what you think!

Wonderful news.

My second poetry collection, PITCH, has been awarded the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Poetry. This is a great honor, as it’s bestowed by independent booksellers from Kansas to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My book is named alongside bestsellers like Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, Chad Harbach’s THE ART OF FIELDING, Brian Selznick’s WONDERSTRUCK, and Loren Long’s picture book, OTIS AND THE TORNADO. What company!

Support your local indie bookseller!

My first public art collaboration.

It’s been an interesting month. In our first-ever collaboration, Swedish artist Maja Spasova and I installed 35 giant rubber rings in the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis, to mark the 5th anniversary of the 35W Bridge collapse. It was my first public art project, and a really scary thing to do. Read the rest of this entry »

Ripple effect.

The new 35W Bridge in the background, part of our installation in the foreground. Moonrise in the distance!

Two years after I started writing 35-word Fragments for the 35W Bridge, I’d gone and written nearly 35 of them. I didn’t know what I had: Was it any good? Would anybody care? I decided to share the project with two people whose opinion I trusted.

1. Maja Spasova

I had met Maja (pronounced MY-a) three years earlier at Ragdale, a retreat center in Chicago. In Europe, where she lives, Maja is known for large-scale public art projects. Ever since she’d seen the worldwide media coverage of the I-35W Bridge collapse, she’d been sending me drafts of ideas for big installations on the river. I thought my poems would be interesting to her, and sure enough … Soon plans were in place for a major public art installation to mark the collapse anniversary.

Maja’s concept was to anchor 35 oversized night-lit life-rings in the Mississippi between the historic Stone Arch Bridge and the new 35W Bridge. The result, she said, would be a contemplative meditation on safety and risk, change and stasis, disaster and salvation, the individual and the communal, power and fragility.

Photo credit: Mill City Times

Viewers of the installation would have access to recordings of my poems by calling a phone number, Maja said. In early 2012 during a visit to the site and with help from the Friends of the Hennepin County Library, Maja spent three days making recordings of Minnesotans telling their stories of the collapse and reading my poems in their own voices.

Read the rest of this entry »

Poems fall.

When the 35W Bridge famously collapsed into the Mississippi River on August 1 2007, I was just pulling into my driveway in north suburban St. Paul, having commuted across the bridge 20 minutes earlier.

That’s not unusual: thousands of Minnesotans could say the same. After all, the bridge was, at the time, the 5th busiest in the state, freighting 145,000 vehicles a day.

Three years later, in 2010, I still had strong feelings about the collapse. I was angry. I was heartbroken about those who died. I still felt trepidation while crossing other bridges around town. I suffered a sense of betrayal.

And so I started writing about it. I wanted to explore my feelings individually, to take them apart the way the engineers took apart the fallen bridge and laid it on the banks of the big river in 2007. Like them, I wanted to inspect. I wanted to pinpoint weaknesses, identify stressors, compare theories. I didn’t want a big poem that would mean something to anyone else, necessarily. I just wanted to sort out my own jumble of feelings. Read the rest of this entry »

Me, on the cover of The Lutheran? Lord help us.

Ever since Anne Basye’s article about me in The Lutheran last October, I’ve wanted to share my poetry with congregations. Last month, Hervey Evans, a parishioner at Mount Olivet UCC in Saint Paul, who commissioned me to write a love poem to his wife a few years ago, invited me to spend an hour with his congregation.

Read the rest of this entry »


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