A Note from Todd:
"Some things are just plain hard to express. It doesn’t matter if you’re a poet or not: When something happens that touches the poetry part of our brains, we don’t always know how to access or explain it. But we know it has value; we feel it like a weight or an urge or a pressure. We ask ourselves, “What does it mean?” and “Why is it important?” I like to work with people to discover the poetry in their lives.
I can be hired to write a poem for you. It can work in various ways. I can work with you by phone or in person. You tell me your story, and, over time (sometimes a great deal of time), I present you with a poem. It can be for you personally, a gift for a loved one, or a public gesture, whatever you like.
In 2008 I wrote a poem on commission for Oakland, CA reader Connie Holmes. The poem, “A Deer,” landed in my first poetry collection, Yellowrocket.
I have written for numerous “clients” on commission, and the process is always lively, stimulating, and richly rewarding. Let me know if you’d like references. I also write lyrics and libretti for musical works. I have collaborated with several composers including Jake Runestad and Andy Vores.
Please contact me and we can begin a discussion about your project and collaboration."
To contact Todd regarding a commission, please fill out the form to the right or send an e-mail to
I found Todd in the New Yorker. People have found Robert Frost and Roger Angell and W. H. Auden in the New Yorker — I found Todd Boss. His poems arrested me and sang for me and, I must confess, I wanted one. The idea for commissioning a poem came quickly, after I discovered that Todd lived in my town. I drilled down his website and found this charming offer: “I’ll write a poem for you”. After a brief and painless exchange of emails, we were begun.
I met Todd in person, presented the first payment, and I began to download the linear history of my relationship with my wife (“the victim” of the poem). Three hours later, we were both exhausted and Todd had eight pages of notes. Our second session came two months later and was more contextual and a little metaphoric as I tried to explain a relationship I had already described. The questions were easy — then hard: there were a few silences as I tried to be as honest with myself as I wanted to be with Todd. The first draft came after that. Todd asked for time, but it only took a couple of weeks for the basic idea to emerge. I asked some questions about intent and sound, got another couple of drafts in response — then it was done.
I had built serious anticipation in my wife: she imagined variously a large piece of furniture, a painting, a new couch… She was astounded by the poem when I read it to her at a restaurant. I shared the poem with her friends, with my family and friends, with everyone I knew. She pinned it to the wall in the break room at her work and all her friends knew it to be a dozen roses that would never lose their bloom.
Working with Todd for the commissioning of a poem was a terrific experience. He absolutely nailed it, and the gift couldn’t have been any better!
Over twelve months, Todd interviewed each of us repeatedly to try and understand our love for our mother. There is tension in every parent-child relationship and ours — individually and collectively — is no exception. But the picture of our combined regard for our “Mother” was remarkably consistent. We love her and take joy in her presence with us.
Fulfilling a commissioned poem from one person to give to another is complicated and difficult. The binary flow of regard is complicated by a factor greater than three with the addition of the poet. Imagine then, the difficulty of fulfilling a commission from five siblings for their mother. In the first place, there are —inevitably — five “Mothers” in play: those in addition to the “real” person who happens to have been the mother to this ambitious group.