Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An evening with Minnesota poet Todd Boss in Owatonna May 1, 2013

Todd Boss reads his poetry Tuesday evening at the Owatonna Public Library.

Todd Boss talks about poetry Tuesday evening at the Owatonna Public Library.

HE READS WITH THE CADENCE of a seasoned poet, with the ease of familiarity, written words fitting his voice like a comfortable pair of boots.

Which is exactly what award-winning St. Paul poet Todd Boss sported, along with faded jeans and a long-sleeved plaid shirt, to a “Poets at the Library Tour” event Tuesday evening at the Owatonna Public Library.

Todd Boss' boots.

Todd Boss’ boots.

Casual, laid back and unpretentious, Boss settled in to read from his poetry books, Yellowrocket and Pitch, Minnesota Book Award finalists in 2009 and 2013 respectively.

Before reading a poem set in Luckenbach, Texas, Boss shared that a woman from New York wants to include him in a dissertation she’s writing on cowboy poetry. He showed off his cowboy boots, then laughed. The audience laughed, too. While Boss often writes about his rural Wisconsin upbringing, he isn’t exactly a cowboy poet. Audience members agreed with Boss that Wisconsinites and Minnesotans live on farms, not ranches, defined by this poet as big open landscapes of earthy hues.

Later he referenced the New York perspective again: “My mother used to read a lot of poetry on the ranch.” Ranch. A carefully chosen word. Just like the words in his detailed and rhythm rich poems.

Reading from Pitch.

Reading from Pitch.

Boss read poetry about card playing, wood piles, his mother, an exchange with a check-out clerk at a Minneapolis food co-op, the 35W bridge collapse…

He revealed, too, that when he writes about his parents, he gives them the option of nixing those personal poems. They never have, a point audience members noted as respectful—of Boss in asking and of his parents in respecting his work.

Audience members read their poetry prior to Boss' reading. Some audience members, like me, were honored at a "Meet and Greet the Poets" reception earlier for those published in Poetic Strokes 2013, a regional anthology of poetry published by Southeastern Libraries Cooperating.

Numerous audience members read their poetry prior to Boss’ reading. Some, like me, were honored at a “Meet and Greet the Poets” reception earlier for those published in Poetic Strokes 2013, A Regional Anthology of Poetry From Southeastern Minnesota. Southeastern Libraries Cooperating publishes the annual collection.

Boss is that kind of caring guy. After listening to audience members read poetry before his presentation, he thanked them, defining their readings as “a little bit like overhearing people’s prayers…things they’re worried about.”

He’s genuine and honest enough to admit that he doesn’t write every day, but that he should and that he’s sometimes lazy about writing.

And, yes, he actually earns a living writing poetry; touring the state and country reading poetry; collaborating on his grant-funded motionpoems; and, most recently, undertaking a public art project, an art/poetry installation on the five-year anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse.

He’s a farm boy from Wisconsin now living in the big city, but still strongly connected to his rural roots via his poetry.

If Tuesday’s event had been held at a ranch, instead of the third floor of a public library, audience members would have gathered around the campfire to hear Boss, cowboy boots resting on a chunk of wood, strumming his not-exactly-cowboy-poetry rhythmic poetry.

FYI: In addition to publishing two books of poetry, Boss works with animator/producer Angella Kassube on producing motionpoems, which “turn contemporary American poems into short films. To learn more about this grant-supported non-profit project, click here.

And click here to link to Todd Boss’ website.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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19 Responses to “An evening with Minnesota poet Todd Boss in Owatonna”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    We are blessed with so much giftedness!! (you are very much included in that statement!). What a grand way to spend an eve!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Doreen. Todd rates as one of my favorite Minnesota poets. And after meeting him last evening, I like and appreciate him even more.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Wonderful~~~and may I softy say….don’t put your shovels away! sorry…..warm hugs, D

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Interesting you should mention not putting away the shovels. When Randy pulled the rakes out from the upper garage storage area on Saturday, I suggested he put away the shovels. Then I told him maybe not, and we didn’t.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Sorry……..

  2. Such an eclectic poet – have to check out his poetry and projects – thanks so much for sharing:) Happy Day!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, yeah, go and check out the motionpoems right now. Just a really innovative way to present poetry.

      The biggest stamp of approval last evening was that my husband even enjoyed Todd’s poetry. And Randy never reads poetry. Todd’s poetry is understandable and down-to-earth.

      • I have never heard of motionpoems and certainly will be checking it out! Poetry can be clean and simple to understand just have to find what speaks to you:)

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Yes, different people enjoy different types of poetry.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Wow–what a wonderful evening that was—-not only did you get to be honored you also got to meet Todd and listen to his work being read. I love that he asks permission from his parents. :-)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      It was a nice evening of mingling and poetry reading. That part of him asking his parents for permission to publish poems about them made me uneasy. I wrote that poem about Caleb being struck by a hit-and-run driver and he does not even know the poem exists. But then he isn’t at all interested in my writing. Oh, well, probably best. Nineteen-year-olds have other “stuff” on their minds.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        True true. I know what you mean. I do not ask permission usually when I put something on my blog. I think the boys know that I would never do anything on purpose to embarrass or hurt them but still……maybe I should run things past them.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        They trust you and that’s good enough.

  4. hotlyspiced Says:

    He sounds like a great guy. I’m so pleased he’s able to make a living from poetry – there are so few who can do that xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, Todd is one of those individuals whom you feel like you’ve known forever, so warm and friendly. And, yes, few can earn a living from poetry.

  5. What an enjoyable evening that must have been! I miss culture around here. I shouldn’t say that. There is culture…just not necessarily the culture to which I have been…cultivated?!!

  6. [...] Another blogger, Audrey, wrote a great account of the reading here. [...]

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks for the link. Glad you enjoyed Todd Boss’ poetry as much as I did. And I love your personal story about the piano.


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