Treasuring Poetry – Meet teacher and performance poet Rosemerry Wahtola TrommerPosted: July 20, 2022
Today, I am delighted to introduce teacher and performance poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, as my July Treasuring Poetry guest. Welcome Rosemerry!
Which of your own poems is your favourite?
Watching My Friend Pretend Her Heart Isn’t Breaking
—Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
On Earth, just a teaspoon of neutron star
would weigh six billion tons. Six billion tons
equals the collective weight of every animal
on earth. Including the insects. Times three.
Six billion tons sounds impossible
until I consider how it is to swallow grief—
just a teaspoon and one might as well have consumed
a neutron star. How dense it is,
how it carries inside it the memory of collapse.
How difficult it is to move then.
How impossible to believe that anything
could lift that weight.
There are many reasons to treat each other
with great tenderness. One is
the sheer miracle that we are here together
on a planet surrounded by dying stars.
One is that we cannot see what
anyone else has swallowed.
first published in Braided Way
And here is a cinepoem version of this
What inspired you to write this poem?
The poem began with a fact—about the weight of a teaspoon of neutron star. I am often inspired by science, and I find that if I let myself fall into research about the world and how it works, it will almost always suggest something to me about the human experience. It’s important to me to not know too much about the poem when I start—I like to let the poem know more than I do. It’s the opposite of that famous advice, write what you know. I so disagree. I want to write into what I don’t know—that is how epiphany happens. And so it is that with this poem, I was surprised when it became a poem about tenderness, about how we treat each other, about generosity of spirit.
What are your plans for your poetry going forward?
Since 2006, I have had a daily poeming practice, and for the last ten years or so, I have shared those poems on a blog, A Hundred Falling Veils. And I plan to continue that. What I have learned is that the practice itself is more important than the poems—the practice of showing up, the practice of being curious, attentive, heart-forward, open. The poems are a happy by product of that practice—and it’s the practice that makes the biggest difference in my daily life. It informs how I meet the world, my willingness to meet paradox, to embrace tension, to be inspired. So I suppose I would say my plans for poetry are really plans to stay committed to a daily practice—and see where it leads.
What is your favourite poem?
[You darkness, that I come from,]
—Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly
You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! —
powers and people —
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
from Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (Harper Perennial, 1981)
Why do you like this poem?
This poem changed my relationship with the dark. I had been afraid of the dark for most of my life. For Rilke to say in those first lines, “You Darkness, that I come from, I love you—” blew my heart wide open. Really? I love you? This was paired in my mind with a Rumi text, “Night when you get there, tell them how I love you.” And I remember being very curious about this love affair with the night. This particular poem, which articulates the cohesive, communing power of the dark, has become a part of me. I learned it by heart and often recite it—once while deep in a cavernous cave with no light on—and it’s as if each time I say it, it works its magic on me even more, helping me fall even more deeply in love with darkness myself. I don’t think it is too dramatic to say that it saved my life, this poem. When I was going through a very hard time, what we call the dark night of the soul, this poem was my companion and it helped me treat that very difficult chapter with gratitude and curiosity. If I could fall in love with the literal dark, could I also find meaning, purpose, even beauty in grief and despair? Yes. This poem has been such a profound guide. In fact, though you didn’t ask for it, here’s a poem I wrote thanking Rilke.
Why do I urge you to do what you are passionate about
And do you know that you’re actually going to make more of a difference by focusing on politics than on the culture you’re passionate about? You don’t know what you might help make happen. Our world is full of the result of unintended as well as intended consequences.
When Rilke travelled through Russia
and studied Saint Francis
and fell in love with the married Salomé
and wrote poems for The Book of Hours,
he could not have known
that over a century later
a woman on another continent
would find herself wrestled by darkness
and find in his poems encouragement
to lean even deeper into darkness
until she could fall in love
with what she feared most.
He could not have known she would
tattoo his words into her memory
and scribe them into her blood
so whenever she walked or lay in the dark
she would have his words ever with her,
and they made her not only more brave
but more wildly alive than she’d been before.
And what if, as his parents had pushed,
Rilke had joined the military
and turned his back on poetry?
And what if he had not gotten himself expelled
from trade school so he could go on
to study literature and art?
What would have become of the woman
a hundred years later
had she not found his poem
and learned from him to love the dark?
My review of Naked for Tea: Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
What Amazon says
Naked for Tea, a finalist in the Able Muse Book Award, is a uniquely uplifting and inspirational collection. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poems are at times humorously surreal, at times touchingly real, as they explore the ways in which our own brokenness can open us to new possibilities in a beautifully imperfect world. Naked for Tea proves that poems that are disarmingly witty on the surface can have surprising depths of wisdom. This is a collection not to be missed.
PRAISE FOR NAKED FOR TEA
Most anyone can make lemonade out of lemons. However, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s welcoming voice, receptive heart, artistic mastery, and empathic vision become an alchemy of being. Out of mudslides, misunderstandings, the exploits of Wild Rose, deep loss, and chocolate cake that sinks in the center, she makes courage, care, joy, and compassion. When “what’s the use” breaks down the back door, she is there, her great good soul encouraging us to sigh, laugh, renew our attention, and feel grateful for and delighted by any cake that sinks in the center.
— Jack Ridl, author of Practicing to Walk Like a Heron and Saint Peter and the Goldfinch
Heart-thawingly honest, deliriously sexy, and compassionate down to the fingertips. A book of kindness and bewilderment and delight from one of our best poets.
— Teddy Macker, author of This World
There is still rich ore in the Colorado San Juans. Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is a treasure. In an era of seeming nonstop, subject-matterless, first person mirror dancing at the Temple of Narcissus incomprehension, it is a delight to find a poet who can tell a crackling story laced with gorgeous imagery and euphony that will appeal to the ancient seats of learning: the heart, belly, and brain. These are poems Sappho and Horace would love: they delight and instruct. They can be read and sung, and they will echo from the proverbial Colorado mountaintops through the archetypal red rock canyons of your mind. Prepare thyself to be smitten and to fall in love.
— David Lee, Utah State Poet Laureate emeritus, author of Last Call and A Legacy of Shadows
Reading Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is to float upon a never-ending waterfall of wonder . . . Pay attention. The elegance of her simplicity will blind you to her mastery. Then, she will let you fall, head over heels, in Love. With everything.
— Wayne Muller (from the foreword), author of Sabbath and Legacy of the Heart
Reading Naked for Tea: Poems was a unique and gratifying poetic experience for me. The poet’s exploration and consideration of every day experiences and emotions threw a different light onto my own similar experiences. Many of the poems got me thinking about how I view life and how that influences how I experience my life. It was marvelous to read a collection where every poem had me stopping and wondering: How did she think of this? How amazing to see this situation this way? It was a most interesting journey of personal discovery for me.
The poet’s style of writing is as unique as the poems themselves. They read like a stream of consciousness and the thoughts run into each other and over each other, but still come together to make perfect sense.
The following short extracts are beautiful and thought provoking examples of the style of the poems:
“Then one day you hit against the same
impassable wall you always hit, and this time you fall
to your knees, not because you are weak’
but because at last you are ready to be opened.
Oh sweet failure, how it leads us.”
from Though It IS Tough to Choose It
“… As if
we all drank the same sad tea.
As if our loneliness also makes
us blind and deaf to each other
unable to see that everyone else
is as broken and blemished as we are.”
from We Do It until We Don’t
“It was an accident, of course, the kind
that makes every one of us think
we are lucky to be alive, lucky to stand
wherever we are standing, whether
it’s in line for a bus or beside the road
or in front of a chalkboard or
in the middle of the kitchen stirring
blackberry jam. How could I not fall in love
with the heat, with the color of blackberries?”
from How It Goes On
Other stand out poems for me were: After My Friend Phyllis Shows Me the New York Times; Perhaps It Would Eventually Erode, But …; United; Not Only with Matches; Positively; and That’s Right.
Purchase Naked for Tea: Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
About Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer lives in Southwest Colorado with her husband and daughter. She served as the third Colorado Western Slope Poet Laureate (2015-2017) and was a finalist for Colorado Poet Laureate (2019). Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion and PBS News Hour, in Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry,” on stage at Carnegie Hall, in back alleys and on river rocks. Her poetry collections include Hush (winner of the Halcyon Prize for poetry of human ecology), Naked for Tea (finalist in the Able Muse Book Award), Even Now, The Less I Hold, The Miracle Already Happening: Everyday life with Rumi, Intimate Landscape and Holding Three Things at Once (Colorado Book Award finalist).
She travels widely to perform and teach for clients such as Think 360, the National Storytelling Festival, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Camp Coca Cola, The Mission in Santa Barbara, Taos Poetry Festival, wForum, and Business and Professional Women. She loves co-leading retreats that combine poetry with meditation, art, and play therapy. She served as San Miguel County’s first poet laureate, directed the Telluride Writers Guild for 10 years, co-directs the Talking Gourds Poetry Club, co-hosts Emerging Form–a podcast on creative process, and co-founded Secret Agents of Change–a group devoted to surreptitious acts of kindness. She has been a satsang student of Joi Sharp since 2010.
Rosemerry performs with Telluride’s eight-woman a cappella group, Heartbeat, and sings more often (and more publicly) than her children wish she would. Since 2005, she’s maintained a poem-a-day practice. Her MA is in English Language and Linguistics. Favorite one-word mantra: Adjust. Visit her at www.wordwoman.com . Watch her TEDx talk The Art of Changing Metaphors: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer TEDx Paonia
You can contact Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer here:
Daily poetry blog: A Hundred Falling Veils
Podcast on creative process: Emerging Form
Thank you, Rosemerry, for being a wonderful guest!
About Robbie Cheadle
Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 2 poetry books.
The 7 Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.
Robbie has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.
Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included in several anthologies.
Robbie writes a monthly series for https://writingtoberead.com called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.
Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/ where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
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