Tough Luck

The work of Minneapolis poet, librettist and film producer Todd Boss (Yellowrocket; Pitch) frequently leans on his years growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. The title, from the poem "When My Mother Says Tough Luck," gives away the work-hard-and-take-your-lumps farm ethic echoed in similar titles like "When My Father Says Toughen Up" and "When We Say Knuckle Down." The latter puts an exclamation point on it: "we mean the knuckles/ of our wills... the whole body,/ the whole mind, the whole/ damned soul is a goddamned hand."

Boss's daily commute narrowly avoided the 2007 devastating collapse of the Twin Cities I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi. That fortunate escape from tragedy led to the long 35-section poem "Fragments for the 35W Bridge" that sits at the heart of Tough Luck. Although almost exclusively written in single word lines, this centerpiece poem nonetheless illustrates Boss's reliance on rhythm and rhyme to tell a story (such as this view of the detritus below the broken bridge: "half-sunk wrecks and suck-pocked rocks"). But more than a story, "Fragments" is a meditation on the risks of everyday life and the way that time inexorably eats away at even the seemingly indomitable: "A worn gusset plate. A few cruddy bolts. A single lousy joint. What a healthy terrorist Time is." Boss's poems sing with authenticity and permanence. As he notes, partly tongue-in-cheek, in "Fragments": "no badly aging load-bearing metaphor of mine ever imploded during rush hour and killed anyone." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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