Todd's third poetry collection with W. W. Norton & Company, Tough Luck, includes all thirty-five 35-word poems that make up "Fragments for the 35W Bridge" from his "Project 35W" installation.
The title refers to two poems, "When My Mother Says Tough Luck," and "When My Father Says Toughen Up," selected for Best of the Net.
The book's publication coincides with Todd's tenth consecutive Pushcart Prize nomination. Tough Luck includes poems that first appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, Terrain, Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and National and Minnesota Public Radio.
For their support, Todd is grateful to W. W. Norton editor Jill Bialosky and literary agent Nancy Stauffer.
Widely regarded as one of the best poets of his generation. . . .
[Boss] us[es] brilliant wordplay and portray[s] the people and landscape
of his childhood in Wisconsin with clarity and hard-edged grace.
— Washington Post
Bookended with poems about what persists and what crumbles . . .
Boss's poems have a distinct―and satisfying―rhythm.
— Star Tribune
Boss is a poet to watch, likely to prove one of the leading voices of the next decade.
Readers may be drawn into this collection for the poems that touch on disaster and divorce, but they'll stay for the memorable verses on nature and memory.
— Library Journal, starred review
It’s deeply satisfying to be swept into the music that scores Todd Boss’s third book, Tough Luck, to delight in the song of everyday speech refreshed and refined through sly rhyme. It is deeply transporting to be ferried across the river of his metaphors, to arrive at places logical yet magical. And it’s deeply delightful to walk in the world of Boss’s objects―a wall-mounted coffee grinder, an old farm sled, and unused Scrabble tiles ‘sitting there in their tray like dumbstruck parishioners.’ Tough Luck is funny and philosophical and
wry and large-hearted, and it’s our great good luck to have it.
— poet Beth Ann Fennelly
Todd Boss charms, and sometimes instructs, and sometimes simply awes the reader with mouthfuls of language ‘like the clop of the walnut / block beneath the gavel of the // judge who fits the punishment / to the crime.’ Language and things, things of farm and town, of disaster and love and orange peels: he’s married them.
— poet Alicia Ostriker
The opening poems from the collection recall Todd's childhood on a Wisconsin farm:
When My Mother Says Tough Luck
it’s like the rough tongue of
leather in a boot somehow,
the way you dig your
thumb in there when it gets
stuck to curl it out again
against the topside
of your foot and pull it flat
so you can truss it up,
or like the slap of milk
on milk in a metal bucket
carried up the ramp
to be dumped in the bulk-
house tank with the rest,
or the clank of the bucket
handle against the bucket’s
flank once the milk’s
poured out and the bucket’s
done its chore, or like the
prayer a shucked off pair
of garden gloves cough
softly when they’re chucked
from the hand and land
filthy on the back porch floor.
as if its
a shop tool’s
Line Dried Laundry
is by lifting and
wind awhile en-
more apt to
cotton to ab-
sorption as if
hour in sun
thirst or some-
might be for-
given if in
wind and light
with or without
You might be
thumb and fore-
in all their
You might even
run a hand
over an idle
as if to say
I knew you when.
But look at me,
When My Father Says Toughen Up
it’s like the clop of the walnut
block beneath the gavel of the
judge who fits the punishment
to the crime, or like the pop of the
velveteen seedpod of the lupine
finally scattering its ordnance of
shot amongst the hollyhock,
or like the aftershock of a
Massey Ferguson engine cut off
too hot, that chuff out the muffler
that echoes off the pole barn
sharp as a whooping cough,
or like the upstart of a startled
ruffed grouse thumping into
flight right beside you on a walk,
or like the hard clap on the back
you get when you choke, as if
to congratulate you. He doesn’t
say it to berate you, he says it to
hike you up an inch or two, like
when he took you by the collar
when you were little to zip you
into that boiled wool jacket he
sent you out to chores with,
or like the high salute we send
soldiers to wars with.
For an Old Runner
Last time I was out to the farm, I found
a sleigh runner made of timber, banded in iron,
rusting in the machine shop under the granary.
It was my father’s father’s father’s father’s,
and I know I had no business bringing it home
without asking Donny—my second cousin, who
owns and farms the land around the abandoned
farmstead now—but here it hangs, cross-wise
on a wall in my study. Its blunted nose 18 hands
high, it arcs above my head, and when I reach
to touch it—as for want of the feel of old wood I
will from time to time—I might as well be handling
one of the horses that hauled it, its neck a rough
relic, so rough it’s almost smooth with roughness,
its whole body—in the wall beside me imaginary—
haunch-heavy but simultaneously holding
weightlessly still for me, eyes steady, ears keen,
and ready the way horses are always ready, even
stolen horses, even horses one has never driven,
never even seen.
Tough Luck, now in paperback, can be ordered wherever you buy your books.