That Ex

rachelle toarmino (@rchlltrmn) | TwitterTHE BOOK: That Ex.


THE AUTHOR: Rachelle Toarmino.

THE PUBLISHER: Big Lucks Books.

SUMMARY: That Ex 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.

THE BACK STORY: That Ex is a catalog of desire, heartache, conflict, and trust—the emotions and experiences that characterized much of my twenties. It began to take shape as a book when I became interested in looking at the character of the ex-girlfriend and how she is represented in pop culture, literature, and other works of art.

WHY THIS TITLE?:We all know that one ex—the one that can’t let go. But when have we been that ex? Possibly, I think, when we write and publish a whole book inspired by our various crushes and heartbreaks. (In one poem, I write, whatever’s the rascal version of sucking meat off the bone is what I do to the ends of all of my relationships / I am…… / ……that ex.”) I wanted the title to nod to the book’s interest in the public spectacle of breakups, and no word in the English language does more pointing than that.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I’ve found that my readers are typically sweethearts and scamps for love. Sometimes they’re freshly heartsick and relate to the first half of the book more; other times they’re lovestruck and enjoy the second half of the book more. Regardless of your relationship status, if you crush hard and grieve harder, That Ex is for you.


“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.

“It’s hard not to 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.” –Alana Kelley, Maudlin House.

“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.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I’m a writer, editor, and educator from Niagara Falls, New York. Prior to That Ex, I wrote the chapbooks Feel Royal and Personal & Generic. I’m the founding editor in chief of Peach Mag and an MFA candidate in poetry at UMass Amherst. I’m a sucker for sentimentality, precision, and sour candy.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: That Ex is a book of poems in which the speaker calls on members of what I consider “ex canon”—pop stars, fictional characters, eros-rocked poets and artists— to teach her how to exist in her world post-breakup. She plays with and within a lineage of rage—especially women’s rage—to reclaim her individuality and renew her faith in love. The book follows her as she tries on reactions like outfits to figure out which fit and which feel like costumes. To borrow from Frank O’Hara, the book is interested in “love’s life-giving vulgarity” and asks who we become when we hurt.


LOCAL OUTLETS: Talking Leaves Books.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Bookshop, Small Press Distribution

PRICE: $16.00.


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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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