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
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
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
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
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 (now ex-)boyfriend
reviews and lists
Grief; Love; Nostalgia: A Review of Rachelle Toarmino's That Ex | Review by Alana Kelley for Maudlin House, November 2020
The Internet Poem Is My Pastoral | 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
What Kind of Love Is That | P-Queue, September 2020
The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: 5 Poems from That Ex | Sundress Publications, May 2020
by Mark Cugini for Big Lucks Books
by Jazz De Nero (video), Cara Hartzell (letters), and DJ Simcard (beat) for That Ex's book launch trailer, July 2020
DJ Simcard's full beat for That Ex's book launch trailer, July 2020