BOOK: Tough Luck


Cover photo by Michael Mann

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 her support, Todd is grateful to W. W. Norton editor Jill Bialosky.



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.



Tough Luck, now in paperback, can be ordered wherever you buy your books.


Click here to hear Todd read "When My Mother Says Tough Luck" and other poems from the collection.

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