Excerpt from Interview with Todd Boss

by Wendy Vardaman

The entire text of the interview is available in Verse Wisconsin (101, Winter 2010).

WV: Tell me about your use of the internet to market your poetry and yourself as a poet—you’ve got a website, a Facebook page, a blog. How important are these tools? Do all poets need them?

TB: All poets should seriously consider them. My web site is my most important tool. It’s my shingle, my front door, my newsroom, my sample room, and my party room. A site that has audio is particularly important—those mp3 files have made fans of casual readers, and landed me on a lot of radio programs. The Facebook page doesn’t do much for me, but it allows others to connect with me, so I think it’s important for that reason.

WV: You’re also making use of YouTube and readers can find some animated poem collaborations there. Some of the videos feature you as the actor, and some use your voice with other visuals. Do you think of these videos as readings of your poems, or as a separate and serious art form? Do poem-videos always work, or could they potentially detract and distract from the words?

TB: My animator and I are calling these Motion Poems, and they’re at motionpoems.com along with a few animations we’re starting to do for other poets. It’s not a serious art form, no, and it can indeed detract from a serious poetry reader’s experience of a poem. But the goal is merely to find a new way to deliver poetry to non-poetry readers, and, by engaging them, inspire them to read more.

On the other hand, if the medium is the message, then perhaps we ought to accuse the printing press of corrupting the art of poetry. My seriousness about audio and video is partly an attempt to rediscover poetry’s perfect format. Let’s remember that poetry roots are nearer the aural than the printed.

WV: Do you have a preference about publishing in print versus publishing online? Do you try to place your work more on one side or the other?

TB: I want to be in the publications that have a consistently high-quality output of top work by great writers. That’ll mean different things to different people, but for me it’s mostly print journals, with a smattering of online journals like Salon, Slate, Blackbird, and others. You’ll be known by the company you keep.

WV: Your poetry content is comfortable with tradition; you write about nature, joy, love, angst, anger, and although you don’t work in traditional forms like the sonnet, you pay a lot of attention to craft and to sound, too. To what extent are your poetic choices designed to be accessible to an audience? Is there a place for edgy or experimental poetry in your work?

TB: Accessible is the new experimental. I feel I’m pushing edges all the time, but I’m doing an even harder thing than experimentalists are: I’m branching downward, not outward.