Q & A: Todd Boss

Tell us more about this poem and how it relates to museums and churches.

My favorite services are Taizé services, in which no one preaches or interprets. The goal, achieved simply through song and silence, preferably by candlelight, is to create an environment for the encounter with God.

I may have written this poem out of frustration after reading an inaccessible poem. I think a lot about poetry as architecture: poems are spaces with entry and exit points, spaces readers inhabit. But so often I can’t get through the front door of a poem because the poet has put a big stone statue of a literary allusion or something in the front hall, and it scares my dog, and I spill the dessert I brought, and I’m too embarrassed to come back.

Who is the “you” addressed in the poem? And who is doing the addressing?

It’s just me talking to the reader, I guess. Or it’s God reassuring me that I’m not a bad person just because I don’t care much what the Bible says.

How did you arrive at the sound of the poem, the rhymes, say, of “beauty / history / presbytery”?

Rhyming is a pretty suspect activity. It’s a bit subversive, isn’t it? We rhyme so that new ideas can sound somehow familiar, and thereby ring truer. Makes me nervous, that idea.

Anyway, I think I hit on those particular rhymes because they’re whispery words, papery. They sound like people talking in hushed tones, they sound like hymnal pages turning, and I liked that echo. I may have taken cues from the first words of the title, “It Is,” which forced me to use “churches” instead of “church,” for instance.


This poem originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2010

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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