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The Boss

The Boss

5.0 1
by Victoria Chang

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Written in “a breathless kind of fury,” the poems in award-winning poet Victoria Chang’s virtuosic third collection The Boss dance across the page with the brutal power and incandescent beauty of spring lightning. Obsessive, brilliant, linguistically playful—the mesmerizing world of The Boss is as personal as it is distinctly


Written in “a breathless kind of fury,” the poems in award-winning poet Victoria Chang’s virtuosic third collection The Boss dance across the page with the brutal power and incandescent beauty of spring lightning. Obsessive, brilliant, linguistically playful—the mesmerizing world of The Boss is as personal as it is distinctly post-9/11. The result is a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind exploration of contemporary American culture, power structures, family life, and ethnic and personal identity.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This third book from Chang (Salvinia Molesta) conjures in verse a familiar and yet appropriately surreal world of invoices and cubicles. Associative wordplay works like hinges to move the poems this way, that way, always hurtling the book—in one unbroken string of uniformly unpunctuated poems—forward. Echoing Gertrude Stein’s playful sonics, these poems use the concept of a boss to access recurring undercurrents of sheer emotion and meditation: “he asks my four-year-old to help when I/ ask him the name of his old boss/ he says his own name” describes a father’s aphasia; “my four-year-old daughter still/ listens to me I am the boss and I like it I/ see why the boss likes it” exposes familial power dynamics; and “the moon speaks up because it knows it will still/ have a job on some nights the moon// shines its white mane on everything/ I’ve ever done wrong” comes from a series of ekphrastic poems on Edward Hopper’s iconic images of work and cityscape woven through the book. Though slightly weaker where the voice tips toward editorializing too blatantly on the perils of office life, Chang’s linguistic mastery is consistently clever and moving.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2014 PEN USA Award for Poetry.

“Brilliant.… To say simply that Chang takes the Modernist’s music and makes it new again, makes it alive, is to say only half-truth, for she truly re-inhabits it, re-kindles the flame. This radically new music is political, yes, but it is also ecstatic. It sees how ‘everything [is] green everything grown and aglow.’ And after each firework or verbal surprise or beautiful pyrotechnics comes flame of recognition. Each reader will find her own revelation in this rich collection, some will find fire, others healing, others ecstatic abandon. I, for one, found music.” —Ilya Kaminsky

“Victoria Chang is to the business world of 21st-century America what Julian of Norwich was to medieval European Christianity: a shocking herald, an empathetic lens. Each of these harrowing and precise lyrics constitutes a ‘showing.’ Part meditation on corporate life, part exploration of mother- and daughterhood, part elegy for a father who has not yet died, The Boss is essential reading for anyone who has ever had a job, a child, a parent, or a heart.” —G.C. Waldrep

“In these pages, the question of whether to boss or be bossed is, in some sense, beside the point, for it becomes clear as this serial poem progresses that Chang is interested less in the brute structures of power that determine our day-to-day lives than in the more metaphysical question of what it really means to be human.” —Katy Lederer

"Chang’s linguistic mastery is consistently clever and moving." —Publishers Weekly

"Chang is a poet to watch because her verse dares to encounter what too many poets either ignore or altogether fail to understand: the self-imprisonment attendant upon regularized labor. These are musical, imagistically arresting, and rigorously intelligent poems, but you should read them as much for their superlative treatment of a much-maligned Great Theme as for any of the surface pleasures they unquestionably put on offer. Very highly recommended." — Seth Abramson, Huffington Post

"Poignant." —Library Journal

"[Chang] seems to care far more about what it means to exist within them, to be not just an employee and a mother and daughter, but a human being." —SF Weekly


"These poems are by someone coming up for air."—Common Good Books

"A look at the ways in which work, family, and art complicate each other."––The American Poet Magazine

"Chang's poetry is a poetry of collision."––KCET

"Sprawling in its absent punctuation, breathless in its prosody even as each image-driven line lingers, The Boss shows us what we gain and what we lose by working and loving at the same time."--Coldfront Magazine

"There is a compassionate, creative wisdom that is never overly labored, the voice of someone whose steadfast caring binds without choking." —The Rumpus

"…in Chang’s book of unusual, moving elegies, it’s language—its fractured, vehement music and fierce demands—that emerges as, yes, 'the boss.'"––Kenyon Review

Library Journal
With so many poets writing about the academy, it's refreshing to see someone addressing office work—though Chang (Salvinia Molesta) is less concerned with our endeavors than with our fraught relationship with power. Throughout, her lines are unpunctuated, her words compacted and repeated, the music a mad, tumbling rush—signaling exactly the not-so-quiet desperation of office life: "we are high performers former high hopers on a high wire." The boss dominates and belittles—"pretends to glue us after/ she breaks us we try to glue ourselves"—and the pressure to please her is relentless. Meanwhile, she herself is safely protected "in a no-fly zone even when [she]/ misses numbers poor-performs." Chang further highlights the anomie of the office with set pieces referencing Edward Hopper and includes poems about her father's "stroke/ a stroke of bad luck," detailing his loss of language (so in contrast to her own facility) while paralleling the control in home and office: "my father// dictated to me to eat tomatoes my father was dictated to/ by his boss." VERDICT Its theme might sound disheartening, but this volume is in fact poignant, energized, apt, even witty; a wide range of readers will enjoy.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Product Details

McSweeney's Publishing
Publication date:
McSweeney's Poetry Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Victoria Chang’s two previous collections of poetry are Salvinia Molesta, published by the University of Georgia Press as part of the VQR Poetry Series in 2008, and Circle, published by the Southern Illinois University Press as the winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition. Her poems appear in the Believer, POETRY, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, New England Review, Colorado Review, Smartish Pace, Blackbird, and elsewhere.

Chang holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard, and Stanford, as well as an MFA from Warren Wilson. She works as a business writer and communications specialist and lives in Southern California with her family.

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The Boss 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago