cover image The Boss

The Boss

Victoria Chang. McSweeney’s, $20 (64p) ISBN 978-1-938073-58-8

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.