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The Boss

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: Victoria Chang
  • Date Published: August 2013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-938073-58-8
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 46pp
  • Price: $20.00
  • Review by: Aimee Nicole

Any time I pick up a book from McSweeney’s Poetry Series, I have high expectations—and Victoria Chang’s The Boss does not disappoint. This collection of poetry is full of clever, cheeky language that propels you through to the last page. The author presents us with a diverse collection written on the same core topic, yet contemplates it from so many points of view that although she considers it fully, I still wanted more. A particularly good example from “The Boss Has Grey Hair”:

The boss has grey hair the boss’s hair has greyed down
            from the roots now everyone is rooting for
the worker but nothing takes root all is grey everything
            is changing everything is unchanged
. . . HR is not very human is a
            nervous artificial heart aware that it might
stop beating the boss has grey hair now the only thing
            that changes HR doesn’t change the square
root of 4 remains 2 just as the square root of
            the boss is always the boss

The rest of the poem has some amazing imagery. The idea of how everything changes in the workforce but still remains unchanged is fascinating because at the end of the day, the boss is still the boss and we are all working under him/her. Another great line from the poem is, “HR is always sweating is / always wetting itself.” The Human Resources Department is supposed to be the calm, cool, and collected department, a resource for workers in chaos or with issues, yet Chang shows us another side to HR that makes us say, “Yeah, I can see that.”

The first poem of the collection, “I Once was a Child,” talks of special treatment people can receive—from a spinning top, to a tap on the shoulders, to everyone getting fired. We learn that the narrator’s father was let go from his job without any notice, as many readers can unfortunately relate to. Chang also brings another player into the game:

            . . . in this land someone always
owns the land someone who owns
            the land owns the buildings on the land owns
the people in the buildings unless and earthquake
            sucks the land in like a long noodle

There are many different types of bosses, but Chang makes it very clear throughout her book that there is only one top boss. However, in this poem, Chang presents the possibility that the boss might not have any real power at all. There is so much outside the boss’s control, and if the earth we live in can suck up the boss’s building like a long noodle, maybe the earth is the boss after all.

Throughout The Boss, we meet many different characters besides the narrator. We meet her children, her father, her mother (family plays a very important role), Edward Hopper (who has several poems titled after him), and many different bosses. The bosses are either people she has met that are described to us concretely or abstract bosses based on ideas. For example, from “The Boss Rises”:

The boss rises up the boss keeps her job
            the boss is safe the workers are not
the boss smiles the boss files the boss
            throws pennies at the workers
the boss rises up higher and higher the boss’s
            head is the balloon getting bigger
and bigger it gets harder and harder to hold
            on the workers do good work

Being a member of the working class, I find there is so much to relate to, laugh at, and sigh over in this book. It is a gem in the literary world, and I’m hoping Chang’s other work lives up to the high bar set with The Boss.

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Review Posted on May 01, 2014

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