top of page

COMMISSIONED POEM: If, as They Say, the Soul

Todd's muses are for hire. Todd takes private commissions from individuals who want a Todd Boss Original of their very own.

Todd may be the only poet in the world who has fine-tuned a 15-year practice of working one-on-one with clients to write custom poems meant to stand alone as meritorious literary works of art.

This is not a typewritten-poems-by-mail or while-you-wait fairground booth operation, but a deliberate methodological practice that, in the words of one client, “straddles documentarianism, art therapy, shamanism, and psychology.”

Commissions begin with a fee and contract, evolve over as many as three increasingly intimate phone conversations, and end with a poem that could only have been written in a spirit of mutual trust. Some are published in Todd's books. Others are printed in limited editions or framed.

People commission Todd because they have something poetic to express, and they need a poet to help them express it. Todd has written to mark milestone events, birthdays, and anniversaries. Commissioners often come to him as strangers. Many stay friends.

As an example, Todd's 10th such project in 2019 was commissioned by psychologist Connie Holmes of Boston (her second commission) to celebrate her lifelong friendship with author and activist Jean Kilbourne. Inspired in part by Ursula K. LeGuin's poem, "How It Seems to Me," Todd's poem set out to recognize a deep and abiding companionship between two very different people whose stars nevertheless aligned.

If, as They Say, the Soul,

in the vast abyss before time,

does indeed commingle first

with light and earth and mist

and then with self, and then

at last with something more

than self, an energy, before

becoming stone and sinking

back into the bliss of light

or antilight or the light of life

we call the afterlife, releasing

self to burn like spun debris,

then this—this now—or God,

if we allow there is a God, or

something metaphysical in me

or you—must alchemize the

transubstantiation in the coal,

and since this now is not so

new, when taken, eons, all at

once, and since my solitary

soul is none supreme, and since

God’s will must be forever

strange, just as our dreams

make strange what’s true, it

seems to me it’s you, my dear

and rare and lustrous friend,

star about which my stars bend,

who does the blessed alchemy,

or, if not you, perhaps it’s us—

the chance transversity of us—

our difference and its valency—

power amplified in twinning—

that keeps the cosmic deeps

inside me spinning.

Todd's practice of writing poems on commission eventually led him to launch a podcast called There's a Poem in That, in which he helps total strangers discover the poetry in their most intimate stories.

If you think there's a poem in your story, and you'd like a poem from Todd, use the contact form on the About page of this site, or leave a voicemail on the podcast's private guest line in Haiku, Hawaii: 808-300-0449.

Writing on commission is one of the most rewarding things I'm privileged to do. For it to work, a commissioner must bring a story in all its complicated glory. I get to enter into the emotional landscape of their subject and their story becomes mine, the "problem" of their poem becomes personal. I'm grateful to Connie and to the many people who have trusted me to bless their stories with some carefully chosen words.

bottom of page