Rachelle Toarmino's debut collection of poems is "The Glass Essay" for the Tinder generation, a fiery and playful exploration of the tropes, stereotypes, and 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
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 . . .
What’s most remarkable about That Ex is just how much of a joy it is to read in sequence, as a chronicle of romantic interactions and reflections, divorced from any larger commentary. Toarmino is a compelling and charming speaker, mixing the confessional vitality of Sharon Olds with the infectious idiosyncrasy of Frank O’Hara.
–Jon Lemay, Barrelhouse
by Mark Cugini for Big Lucks Books