Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer served as the third Colorado Western Slope Poet Laureate (2015-2017), co-hosts Emerging Form (a podcast on creative process), is the co-founder of Secret Agents of Change and co-directs Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club.
Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com, and on river rocks. Her most recent collection is “Naked for Tea,” a finalist for the Able Muse book award in 2018.
She teaches poetry for 12-step recovery programs, hospice, mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists and more.
The following is an interview with Rosemerry Wahtold Trommer.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
What inspired you to write this book?
Small beets. Cactus spines. Blackberry jam. Donkeys. It never ceases to amaze me how everything offers itself as inspiration. And as a poet, the medium is short enough that every day I can write a poem about what inspires me that particular day.
But the poems that made it into this most recent collection do have some things in common beyond their everydayness. As the title, “Naked for Tea,” would suggest, they deal with vulnerability and a willingness to show up. And, as the title also suggests, they deal with failure—with the ways that things often don’t turn out as we might expect—and then the invitation to say yes to the world as it is.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
Favorite poets? I love contemporary writers, especially Naomi Shihab Nye, Faith Shearin, Ellen Bass, George Bilgere, Dorianne Laux, Jane Hirshfield. All of these writers are able to find meaning in the mundane, to make language sing. So often I read a poem and think, huh. But poems by these writers will almost always elicit shivers, or at least a mmmmm of recognition in which I find myself resonating and falling in love with the art of poetry and with the world.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
Haven’t most of us felt lost? Haven’t most of us wished for tools to help ourselves and to help each other? “Years Later, I Remember What He Taught Us” is working, of course, through metaphor, but I am very interested in the ways that we might connect with each other, help each other navigate through the deserts of our lives.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
Some of the poems in this book feature Wild Rose, my alter ego. She will do anything I am too afraid, too prissy, too me to do. In short, she has a lot of fun in situations where I freeze. In this book, she gets a tail, does absinthe shots with God, and does tricks on a trapeze. I think everyone should have an alter ego! Just come up with a name for them, and then the next time you find yourself in a bind—buying a car, going for a job interview, trying on a swimsuit—know that this is exactly the situation where your alter ego thrives! And then let him or her take care of it.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
There are several poems that deal with very difficult themes—for instance “Poem Not Really About Leaves” is about letting other people down. And “How It Goes On” was inspired by the death of a friend. One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that it allows us to explore very difficult topics deeply in a small space—so healing, but not wholly overwhelming. It takes a lot of courage to sit down and write the truth that we’d rather not know.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
I think to be a gravedigger, you have to have a pretty good sense of humor. One of the poems, “Picking Up a Hitchhiker in May” details a conversation I had with our local gravedigger, and I was astonished by his levity. That poem was also inspired by a conversation I heard with poet/undertaker Thomas Lynch, who explained in an NPR interview how people used to want to punish those for the crime of killing themselves, but they were dead! So that they would bury them under a crossroads so that the body would be trampled on.
What project are you working on next?
Since 2006, I have been writing a poem a day, and for many years I have been posting them daily on www.ahundredfallingveils.com. But I am, for the first time, writing fiction—an erotic trilogy! It’s so much fun. Turns out I love writing dialogue. I love leading a scene to greater uncertainty. I love letting things get really, really messy—which I have a hard time doing in my own life!
I also have a podcast on the creative process, Emerging Form, that I co-host with science writer Christie Aschwanden. We tackle subjects such as existential despair, how to get started, collaborations, and more.