Todd Boss, poet

Category: Poems

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:

The lie that tells the truth

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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!

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 »

Today It Seemed I Had Nothing to Say

At the annual conference of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs this year, I had the joy of encountering this beautiful 7 x 7 broadside of my poem, “Today It Seemed I Had Nothing to Say,” letterpress printed by Kerri Cushman with a woodcut by JJ Eisfelder in a numbered edition of 100. It was printed for me by the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review where the poem, now collected in Pitch, first appeared.

Read the rest of this entry »

Something new to chew on.

This month I brushed up on my letterpress skills and took a beginners’ class at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The result is this edition of 40 broadsides. Currently SOLD OUT.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been broadsided.



This poem, to be published in POETRY in November, is now available as a hand-penciled broadside by calligrapher Emily Snyder (“Queen Quills“).  Groovy, ain’t it?
Read the rest of this entry »

Flipping cool.


Animated poetry in a hand-held device!

Designer / animator Angella Kassube has turned my short poem “God Flips” into a bound paper flip book! How flipping cool is that? Angella’s my co-directing partner at Motionpoems, she’s a typeface junkie like me, and she loves making things move. 

It’s old-school animation… in a mobile device! Read the rest of this entry »

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