Rachelle Toarmino's debut collection of poems is "The Glass Essay" for the Tinder generation, a fiery and playful exploration of the all-too-real experiences that come with being an ex. While the title suggests a meditation on leaving and being left——on absence, even on woundedness——there are no ghosts in this book. Instead, the reader finds Britney Spears and other archetypal exes and troubled lovers, from Carmela Soprano and Lorde to Anne Carson and Molly Bloom. They don't haunt the rooms of these poems: they party in them, fill them with their laughter, rage, and tender longing. Unbroken and big-hearted, they sing together of magic and pain, of old fights and new gambles, of getting over a breakup and getting over yourself.
Title: That Ex
Publisher: Big Lucks Books
Release date: June 9, 2020
"Rachelle Toarmino's That Ex is the poetry book all your ex-boyfriends warned you was crazy. These poems are somewhere between aphorism, dm, and good old-fashioned free verse. This is a sensitive, self-aware collection full of Britney Spears references, emotional vulnerability, and digital nostalgia. Funny, tender, and real."
–Hera Lindsay Bird, author of Hera Lindsay Bird
"The poems in Rachelle Toarmino's That Ex ask an insistent question: What does love look like in the era of the group chat? In these poems, ex-lovers swirl around with Lorde, Sopranos characters, Anne Carson, and James Joyce, creating a rascally tenderhearted poetics of loss, joy, and desire. This debut, no question, is iconic. I walk away from it with wonder and, yes, a Britney lyric: 'I think there's love / I don’t think it's what / we thought it was / I still believe.'"
–Jakob Maier, first poet on the cover of GQ and Rachelle's favorite male poet
"This collection is the smartest and the baddest. I felt a love I thought was only possible in bar bathrooms: dizzy, real, and there for you, baby girl. It's what I wanted! I didn't even know!"
–Kimmy Walters, author of Killer, Uptalk, and The Faraway
"God, does this book vibe. It vibes way down in the bones of every relationship you’ve ever had, of every love you’ve lost or are afraid to lose. Like the Libra the author is, That Ex is all cool sophistication and casual glamour on the surface while bubbling up with eager tenderness and brutal honesty underneath. Toarmino gives herself and her reader permission to revel in the love poem while never letting anyone forget that emotional apocalypse is around the corner, that there’s something exploitative in documenting your love, that there’s nothing we crave more than total devastation."
–Gion Davis, Weird Sister
"I love these romantic and heartbroken poems as I love the subatomic thrill of new love and as I love the brightest shades of pink and as I love to write about exes."
–jamie hood, author of how to be a good girl
"Considering that That Ex is an exploration of romance as experienced by a generation that came of age with MySpace and navigated 'real romance' with Tinder, Toarmino's choice to embrace the ways social media and technology are intertwined with our every emotional experience invites us to suspend any doubts about whether such things 'belong' in the poetic tradition in the first place. That these choices always read as true, rather than gimmicky, testifies to how authentic and precisely rendered these details feel, how effectively Toarmino terraforms this type of poetic sequence to her world."
–Jon Lemay, Barrelhouse
"Toarmino's engagement with form helps the book embody a wholly contemporary experience, immersing her audience in the emotional weight of finding love, family, and yourself while being bombarded by phone notifications and the plight of social media ... Lines become enjambed and run over each other, interrupting one thought with another, fast callbacks and callouts and calls for attention to the minutiae of daily turmoil. And it is beautiful."
–Lee Anderson, Sundress Publications
"It's hard to not want to quote every single line. If something could possibly feel like a bittersweet, distant memory and breaking news at the same time, this would be it ... Toarmino is Sylvia Plath with a choose-your-own-ending. She is Carrie Bradshaw leading us through the lights and darks of love."
–Alana Kelley, Maudlin House
"With a balanced serving of Britney and biting lines, Toarmino offers a vignette rife with the desperate minutiae of modern romance."
–Nicholas Brown, Palette Poetry
"Look, there are some poets an audience politely snaps for, and there are some poets that get a crowd worked up like a pop star. Toarmino’s the latter type. You see the adoration; people cheer in anticipation for their favorite lines in her whip-smart and tender poems."
–Kristen Felicetti, The Adroit Journal
–anonymous friend's ex-boyfriend
"A funny, timely, and vivacious meditation on forgiveness and the ways in which alienation can be repurposed as a healing act of rebellion. Toarmino's voice is sharp and commands attention——this is a debut that pays tribute to the past as it watches it burn, lit match in hand. These are broken-hearted pop poems that invite you in to laugh, talk shit, and commiserate. The fire in this book cannot be faked."
–Matthew Bookin, author of Honest Days and Palace
"The first time I heard Rachelle read I thought she was too cool to be my friend. Then and now her poetry knocks me over with its seemingly effortless achievement of #banger status—a deception, cause this bitch works harder than anyone. The shifts she pulls off, from winking play to rage and devastation, I've only really seen paralleled in country song lyrics. Dreamy and merciless and hopeful despite having lived among monsters. In the spirit of #FreeBritney and the lies of that word, free. I love Rachelle so far beyond her poetry now, but it's a joy to return to that first feeling of smittenness. I wish it for all of you."
–Liz Bowen, author of Sugarblood and Compassion Fountain
"Introducing Ex Canon. Smart, funny, full of heart and heat."
–Aidan Ryan, author of Organizing Isolation and Rachelle's fiancé
"I'll never be buying that shit you generalising bitch"
–Twitter user @ducksuck213
"Captured the pure unadulterated essence of victim mentality"
–Twitter user @jmsjsph
"Sad how you use these 'men are so horrible' tactics to sell your lame ass book. Pathetic, literally everyone can see right through it"
–Twitter user @pakovillasanamx
"You needed to publish a book for something everyone goes through at one point? Ook"
–Twitter user @henrybenson88
reviews and lists
Spin: Book Club Recommends: 10 Favorite Titles From 2022-Ish / Mention by Sadie Dupuis
FF2 Media: Falling in Love at the Apocalypse with Rachelle Toarmino's That Ex / Review by Hannah Lamb-Vines
Sundress Publications: Sundress Reads: Review of That Ex / Review by Lee Anderson
Maudlin House: Grief, Love, Nostalgia: A Review of Rachelle Toarmino's That Ex / Review by Alana Kelley
Small Press Distribution: Poetry Bestsellers: That Ex by Rachelle Toarmino
Barrelhouse: Barrelhouse Reviews: That Ex by Rachelle Toarmino / Review by Jon Lemay
Poetry Daily: A Word for It
Heresy: If You Love It So Much
P-Queue: What Kind of Love Is That
Sundress Publications: 5 Poems
The Wanderer: 4 Poems
Cosmonauts Avenue: You Animal / 2018 Poetry Prize Longlist
Shabby Doll House: 2 Poems
Voicemail Poems: Being on the Phone with You
Shabby Doll House: You Up?
The Buffalo News: People You May Know
Metatron Press: 2 Poems
METACOSM: Let's Get the Girlies, We're Going to Do Something Else / Interview with Brad Casey
Write or Die Tribe: What It's Like to Release Your Debut Poetry Collection During a Pandemic: 20 Poets Respond / Interview with Erica Abbott
~Profound Experience: ~Profound Experience of Poetry with Rachelle Toarmino / Interview with Lucy K Shaw
Weird Sister: Those Objects of Desire: A Conversation with Rachelle Toarmino on Objectification, Persona, and the Internet / Conversation with Gion Davis
The Adroit Journal: The Internet Poem Is My Pastoral: A Conversation with Rachelle Toarmino / Interview with Kristen Felicetti
Snowflakes in a Blizzard: That Ex / Interview with Darrell Laurant
BookWoman: A Virtual Interview with Rachelle Toarmino / Interview with Cindy Huyser
Rise Collaborative: Toarmino, Falck Release New Books / Interview with Kevin Heffernan
WKBW: Niagara Falls Poet Launches Book at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve / Interview with Melanie Camp / 2020
Just Buffalo Literary Center: "Where better than a dinosaur graveyard to read poems about exes?" / Interview with Meghan Pipe
Literary Hub: How to Plan a Literary Drive-In; Or, the Pandemic's Safest IRL Book Launch / I wrote an essay on pandemic debuts and planning a drive-in book launch for That Ex
Electric Literature: How to Arrange a Poetry Collection Using Mixtape Rules / I wrote an essay on how I used a music playlist to sequence the poems in That Ex
Talia Ryan: If You Love Attention Make Some Noise / Visual artist Talia Ryan created an exploding book that borrows the refrain in my poem of the same title / Exhibited at the Western New York Book Arts Center in Buffalo, NY in October of 2021