Q & A: Todd Boss

It looks like the poem is designed to be mimetic of a dog’s far-ranging attentions; how does this connect with reading poems?

Cool question. The poem is speaking out against the liberal passion for rules, so it breaks some rules with form even though it’s one of the most strictly metrical and formal poems I’ve ever written. I guess I was playing with that tension. And I got a kick out of trying to tangle up the reader.

Is there a particular dog you have in mind?

All our laws end up dogging us a little.

How did a film projector get into the poem?

I needed a rhyme for “dogs.”

So it’s arbitrary? Do you feel it’s ok to use a word merely for the sake of a rhyme?

Call it a happy accident. Or consider: Every word is on the trail of another, whether the spoor in the snow is sense or sound or some other association. Poetry is pathfinding, a maze we make up as we get lost in it. Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs led to birds, which led to a candy house, a birdcage, an oven. Was the oven arbitrary, or did the bread crumbs suggest it? In this poem, the rhyme suggested “cogs,” but the “dancing” pantomime, and the leash-winding, and the role reversal all suggested film.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.