Winner of the 2022 Alma Book Award
@ Saturnalia Books
Mossotti is such a graceful, graced poet—I marvel at all his turns and interweaves. He is truly one of the best.
—Naomi Shihab Nye
With his nose to the ground and his imagination open to miraculous possibilities, Travis Mossotti charts great personal and social discoveries, and he does it with a manner all his own and with an openness to others, and not just people. He does not deny chickens, fungi, or trees. Mossotti's allegiances go to the very center of America and his muse is Appollinaire. Apocryphal Genesis is a wonderful book.
Startling, sometimes ground-shifting endings mark these poems. Along the way, Mossotti’s speakers are good company, coming at you from beside a river, or a yard filled with chickens, or a velvet seat at the opera. Or from across a table solemn with family and dinner. They speak into our new century’s swirling void, seeking the oak, the warm angel, the reader.
Winner of the 2022 Christopher Smart - Joan Alice Poetry Prize @ Black Spring Press Group/Eyewear
Travis Mossotti’s Racecar Jesus makes an impact from the very start with its immediately accessible voice and engaging style. The poems veer unpredictably, rather like a “Buzzfeed” channel, or a high velocity poetic consciousness careening headlong through 21st century Americana. There are lurid ruminations on God and spirituality, quirky, phenomenal imageries that provoke and delight, but there’s equally an eagerness to reach out and connect, to break through the habitual, the mundane, and to become more aware of “the catalogue of human sorrow [we] touch and withdraw from.” Mossotti has mastered the art of the confessional-conversational, combining wit with devastating juxtaposition, like an F1 jet-engine-fuelled Billy Collins on fire.
—Jason Eng Hun Lee, contest judge citation
Winner of the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize @ University of Arkansas Press
I’ve been this poet’s fan since I came across About the Dead, his 2011 book that was chosen by Garrison Keillor as the May Swenson Poetry Award winner that year. Several books later, Mossotti has settled into his maturity as a poet, bringing to his work an awareness that only comes with a sense of history both great and small, from the lessons of Machiavelli to the ones we learn when someone our age dies. Of the many fine poems here, a favorite is “Joint with Christine at a Tool Concert,” in which the poet treats a prison-bound meth head with the love and insight we all deserve.
With clear-eyed intelligence, Narcissus Americana surveys the unfolding American disaster: ecological damage “too late for healing,” desperate hypocrisies, and overextended credit of the powerful and powerless alike. From the sharp edge of middle age, poetry offers cold comfort, each new subject—like an unused wine fridge—“One more absurd, impossible thing / I have somehow been charged with getting rid of.” Yet the resulting poems never lose shape or equanimity, their lines balanced and tuned. And in the ironic space between what we want and what we get, Mossotti discovers resources we can use right now: dark laughter and resolute tenderness.
Winner of the 2013 Melissa Lanitis Poetry Prize with Bona Fide Books
Field Study explores American landscapes impacted by the predator control programs of the 19th and 20th centuries--programs whose bloody campaigns devastated carnivore populations in nearly every corner of the country. Mossotti's accounts are poems of reportage as he embeds himself alongside his wife Regina (a carnivore biologist) and takes the reader through a variety of experiences with recovery programs and field research on mountain lions, gray, red and Mexican wolves, cataloging the tenuous relationship of their return to their native ecosystems.
The poems in Field Study wind through different settings, characters, and species in an attempt to understand what makes us human. Whether in the field, a wildlife rescue center, or at home, staring at a reflection in the dishwater, Mossotti's poems balance the need for connection and necessary self-denial: 'Whenever I hold the sound / of those animals it opens like a dogwood blossom— / but then I squeeze too hard, and it dies." With narrative velocity and lyric grace, Field Study reveals a side of science rarely seen.
—Kerry James Evans
The Mechanics of Failure
Winner of the 2014 Poets at Work Chapbook Prize
Whether he's attending a professional wrestling match, the opera, or poking through what's left of the detritus in an American landfill, Travis Mossotti's poems are as muscular and curious as the characters and landscapes that inspire them. These poems are filled with tender, unflinching, hard-won moments, and the rhythmic sentences that accompany the narratives continue to resonate in the reader's imagination long after the initial reading, and they reveal the hidden commerce between all the unseen moments that we throw away, removing the dust from our daily routines and rituals. They rub their legs against the edifice of our ruins. As an editor, this poet is an uncommon find. As a reader, I am dearly anxious to see what Mossotti's poems are able to excavate next.
The poems in Travis Mossotti’s Mechanics of Failure sing a broken and bedraggled America, marking the disintegration of place and body while elegizing the riven and celebrating the beautiful. In long, languid meditations and short, precise lyrics, the poet here is both witness and prophet—a speaker who stitches together memory and the myths that tell us who we are by returning to those places long ago disappeared and seeing in them what is lost and what remains, what can be salvaged and carried, vital, into the future. In Mossotti’s deft hands, and through his hopefulness and empathy, we aren’t exactly healed but somehow made better, and more whole—a necessary offering hewn from loss.
—Stacey Lynn Brown
MY LIFE AS AN ISLAND
Winner of the 2012 Blue Moon Chapbook Prize at Moon City Press
Whether portraying the hardscrabble poor living along the Mississippi River or staring as Guillaume Apollinaire stared into Le Seine in Paris, Travis Mossotti evokes the ghosts of his own working-class family. His urgent meditations upon three generations of Italian-American men torn apart by economic hardship and death transport us, in achingly beautiful detail, to the Meramec River and Missouri hills of a bygone era. In My Life as an Island, Mossotti sings of St. Louis, of a heritage the poet equates with “‘the crumbled red brick façade / of burned-out warehouses on the edge / of a river that is more American / than I can stand.’”
Mossotti, unlike some writers these days, knows that place and poetry go hand in hand, and that a poem had better take place in a world that actually exists, in a life that is your own whether you want to claim it or not.
ABOUT THE DEAD
Winner of the 2011 May Swenson Poetry Award from USU Press
Travis Mossotti writes with humor, gravity, and humility about subjects grounded in a world of grit, where the quiet mortality of working folk is weighed. To Mossotti, the love of a bricklayer for his wife is as complex and simple as life itself: "ask him to put into words what that sinking is, / that shudder in his chest, as he notices / the wrinkles gathering at the corners of her mouth." But not a whiff of sentiment enters these poems, for Mossotti has little patience for ideas of the noble or for sympathetic portraits of hard-used saints. His vision is clear, as clear as the memory of how scarecrows in the rearview, "each of them, stuffed / into a body they didn't choose, resembled / your own plight." His poetry embraces unsanctimonious life with all its wonder, its levity, and clumsiness. About the Dead is an accomplished collection by a writer in control of a wide range of experience, and it speaks to the heart of any reader willing to catch his "drift, and ride it like the billowed / end of some cockamamie parachute all the way / back to the soft, dysfunctional, waiting earth."
About the Dead struck me on first reading as an adventurous book grounded in real places and real people, and reading it was like following the poet up a steep climb on a rocky slope as he improvised his route, and at every step I was struck by the rightness of his choices, surprised by so many odd words that seemed so exactly right.
—Garrison Keillor, from his foreword to About the Dead
Mossotti brings readers into experiencing the poem sound by sound, leaf by leaf, into a collision of verve and landscape.
Mossotti is a brilliant navigator of words: raw, unforgiving, and unapologetic.