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
108 pages | poetry
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Rachelle knows the way the past lives in the present, swirling through like vapor, flickering like movies projected on a wall. This book feels so deeply true. It's brilliant, funny, sweet, hopeful, angry, and, above all, unapologetic—because why are we always saying sorry for the things we had to do?
–Janet McNally, author of Some Girls and winner of the 2015 White Pine Poetry Prize
A tightrope walk of humor, wisdom, and heart . . . This is a bedside table book. I look forward to devouring it over and over and over again.
–D. Arthur, author of Cybering
Introducing Ex Canon. Smart, funny, full of heart and heat.
–Aidan Ryan, author of Organizing Isolation and Rachelle's fiancé
A banger! . . . I sent pics of different poems to my group chat, a different one for each person.
–Rachael Lee Nelson
men react to that ex
You needed to publish a book for something everyone goes through at one point? Ook
–Twitter user @henrybenson88
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
I’ll never be buying that shit you generalising bitch
–Twitter user @ducksuck213
–anonymous friend's ex-boyfriend
reviews and lists
Sundress Reads: Review of That Ex | Review by Lee Anderson for Sundress Publications, February 2021
Grief, Love, Nostalgia: A Review of Rachelle Toarmino's That Ex | Review by Alana Kelley for Maudlin House, November 2020
What It's Like to Release Your Debut Poetry Collection During a Pandemic: 20 Poets Respond | Roundup by Erica Abbott for Write or Die Tribe, August 2021
~Profound Experience of Poetry with Rachelle Toarmino | Interview with Lucy K Shaw for ~Profound Experience, April 2021
Those Objects of Desire: A Conversation with Rachelle Toarmino on Objectification, Persona, and the Internet | Conversation with Gion Davis for Weird Sister, February 2021
The Internet Poem Is My Pastoral: A Conversation with Rachelle Toarmino | Interview with Kristen Felicetti for The Adroit Journal, January 2021
That Ex | Interview with Darrell Laurant for Snowflakes in a Blizzard, December 2020
A Virtual Interview with Rachelle Toarmino | Interview with Cindy Huyser for BookWoman, November 2020
Niagara Falls Poet Launches Book at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve | Interview with Melanie Camp for WKBW, August 2020
"Where better than a dinosaur graveyard to read poems about exes?" | Interview with Meghan Pipe for Just Buffalo Literary Center, July 2020
A Word for It | Poetry Daily, September 2021
If You Love It So Much | Heresy, December 2020
What Kind of Love Is That | P-Queue, September 2020
The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: 5 Poems from That Ex | Sundress Publications, May 2020
How to Plan a Literary Drive-In; Or, the Pandemic's Safest IRL Book Launch | "And, honestly, I wanted closure. I wanted to bookend the shocks of emotion that sparked so many of these poems with an experience that could mimic that original sensation of release—so that I could begin to move on." | Essay on pandemic debuts and planning a drive-in book launch | Literary Hub, June 2021
How to Arrange a Poetry Collection Using Mixtape Rules | "It had no arc, that yearning of meaning against the gravity of language itself." | Craft essay on music playlists and sequencing poems | Electric Literature, March 2021
by Mark Cugini for Big Lucks Books
by Jazz De Nero (video), Cara Hartzell (letters), and DJ Simcard (beat) to promote That Ex: The Drive-In
DJ Simcard's full beat for the trailer of That Ex: The Drive-In