Todd Boss, poet

Category: Project 35W

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 »


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