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Back Again, So Soon?

So.. let’s see. My last two visits to Telluride were from Oct 27 – Nov 10, and then Dec 14&15. And I’m back already — again, for just one night — and I’ll be back again, each of the next four Wednesdays : Feb 8, 15, 22; and March 1st. What gives with seven visits, one of them being for two weeks, within roughly a four-month period?

Well, things have turned out thataway. December’s Talking Gourds was rescheduled for when I could make it, and with a poet I wanted to see, and also on my birthday. Hard not to feel the Universe was in my corner. And this current weekly surge is due to a workshop put on by beloved poet and friend. Since my New Year’s resolution (Ick!) was to bring my writing more to the forefront, this is one of those steps in that direction.

But, then, a question remains: Why do I keep returning here, anyway? Well,… here I go…

The reasons are legion, and I may not even be aware of them all, but to put it succinctly, because coming here is good for me. The beauty, the smallness and quietness, that I’ve become familiar with the place (and also in no small part, familiar to the place and some of its people), and that it’s a place I know where I can escape to are some of the specific reasons I persist in returning. Too, it’s far enough away (four to four and a half hours) that I’m not able to constantly come here (It requires a commitment to come.), yet it’s close enough that it’s not huge burden getting here. As the Little Bear would say, “It’s just right!”

That said, I do love where I live, and am grateful for being able to continue living there. As much as I also love Telluride, whenever I’m here, the very fact that I’m here means I’ve stepped away from day-to-day life — I’ve no commitments, no work schedule, or nearly all the other things that come with a life that keep you from being able to do (pretty much) whatever you want whenever you want. As Gus McCrae tells Lori, in Lonesome Dove, “Even in San Francisco, life is still life.” If I were to move to Telluride, I’d also have to bring all the rest that comes with my life, which I’m currently able to leave at home precisely because Telluride isn’t home.

Anyhoo. As I said, I’ll be returning each of the next four Wednesdays.

And, each Thursday, I’ll be returning home.

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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Inspiration, re: Writing, Sorting It Out

Interview w/Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Something like a year ago, I interviewed Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, who’d recently become the Western Slope Poet Laureate. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Colorado-speak, we refer to the part of our state that’s west of the Continental Divide, as “the Western Slope.”) I’d intended it for an online poetry magazine that went “on hiatus” while I was putting some of the final touches on the interview. Since, I’ve tried a couple other places, and neither place was interested in even receiving the interview.

Then, yesterday, I came across this interview, referenced in Rosemerry’s own blogsite. I read it, liked it, and then later pondered whether I could do the same with my own.

So, without further ado, here’s my own interview with Rosemerry.

 

Show Up And Write Something True

(An interview with Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer by Eduardo Rey Brummel)

Version 2Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, current Western Slope Poet Laureate, has had her work included in O Magazine, and on, Prairie Home Companion. One of her current WSPL projects has been the online, Heard of Poets: Poems From Colorado’s Western Slope, a weekly profile of a Western Slope poet.

Long before she became WSPL, she was teaching and conducting workshops in places such as: Colorado Mesa University, Ah Haa School for the Arts, The Aesthetic Education Institute of Colorado, and Think 360 Arts. Her latest book is, Even Now, and her website is, wordwoman.com. She and her family live in Colorado’s San Miguel County.

(This interview was conducted via a series of emails between Rosemerry and myself.)

ERB: Let’s jump right in. In Mr. Hendrick’s fourth-grade class, you wrote:

“Pink is pretty/and fingernail polish./Lovely roses/I’d never abolish.” What would your fourth-grade self think of where that poem has taken you?

RWT: Well, that fourth-grade girl knew exactly one thing about poems. They were fun to write. She didn’t care if a poem were[was?] published. She didn’t know that it wasn’t practical to be a poet. She didn’t know that poems could save her life.

What a gift, really, to come to poetry for the pure pleasure of it. What pulled me in then, as it does to this day, is the thrill of reading poems and finding resonance there. And then there is the thrill of the blank page—how perfect it is in its potential. How anything can happen. And then there’s the thrill of the words themselves at play with each other through sound, through meaning. And then there’s the disappointment of not saying what we wanted to—not precisely communicating what we want to say. And the chance to try it again. And it’s free.

I have worked with enough fourth grade students to know that it is possible at age 10 to write really moving, mature, insightful poems. I was not one of those kids. I just wanted to have a good time. I think that fourth-grade self would be glad to know that I still find writing playful, even when the subject is very serious.

 “…[I]t wasn’t practical to be a poet,” you said. I’m reminded of the line from, The Wizard of Oz, “Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”  I’m not so sure being practical is really all that practical.

I love that line from the Wizard of Oz. I am grateful for impractical hearts—hearts that risk and break and open wider than we ever dreamed possible.

Tell me a little more about how “poems could save her life.”

I think many people who have gone through very difficult times can point to a poem that “saved them,” that helped them find meaning or purpose or at least the will to live another day. For me, that poem was “Rumi, Pay Homage,” a version of Rumi by Daniel Ladinsky.

What about your life, poetry or otherwise, surprises and/or amazes you?

Oh Eduardo, what doesn’t amaze me? Is that too flip? I am not trying to be flip. I think I live in a constant state of amazement. I am told it’s a little overwhelming for people around me sometimes.

Since you earned your graduate degree in Language and Linguistics, it seems you’d already decided to pursue some sort of writing career. Had you also decided, back then, to be a poet?

When I was at Colorado College, I was lucky enough to take a half-block class with Owen Kramer called “English as a Classical Language,” in which we looked at the Indo-European roots of words. It was the first time I was introduced to the phonetic alphabet, and I fell in love with the usefulness of that! I transcribed several of Hopkins’s poems into the phonetic alphabet, and it enabled me to really notice the patterns he was using. That was the beginning of my love affair with linguistics. I understood that if I wanted to really know language, a scientific background in phonetics, syntax, etymology and language acquisition would help enormously! I was an anomaly in the [University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate] program, for sure. Everyone else was planning on teaching ESL (which I did as a TA). But you are right, Eduardo, I chose to study linguistics because I knew it would really help me as a writer. I believe it does.

You’ve composed a poem each day, for what—the last ten years? What got you started, doing that? What’s kept you at it for all this time?

About ten years ago at Sparrows Poetry Festival in Salida, I did a workshop with Jude Janett. She had just finished doing a poem-a-day practice for 30 days and challenged each of us in the room to do the same. Here were her guidelines: Find two friends. Agree to send each other poems. Agree that you do not need to respond to each other’s daily poems. I thought it sounded impossible, but I was excited to try. I partnered with Ellen Marie Metrick and Barbara Ford. Ellen I knew well, and Barbara was someone I really wanted to get to know. It turned out to be a fabulous way to engage with each other and has fostered an intimacy that still exists between the three of us to this day.

After 30 days, we decided to go for 90. Then, when the other two decided to take a break, I decided to keep it up, though I did take a six-month break in 2008 when my second child was born.

Perhaps I would like to tell you that I need to do it, that I am driven to write the poems. Perhaps it is more true to say I do not need to do it. That it is all too easy to not write poems. That is why, I think, the daily poeming is so important. It helps me maintain poetry as a practice. Practice. That word is so vital to me when it comes to poetry. I feel as if I am constantly learning, constantly exploring new tools, new voices, new ways of reading and writing and saying the things that defy being said—like what it means to be alive.

One of the best things about writing a poem a day is that it takes off a lot of pressure. I used to only want to write if I was pretty sure that what I wrote would be good. As a result, I had a hard time starting. What joy I have now in saying I am a failed perfectionist. When writing a poem a day, I know I can’t write a masterpiece every day. But, as Billy Collins once said, “If you stay in the aviary long enough, sooner or later a bird will land on your head.” If you write enough poems, well, eventually you will write one that really sings.

Okay, one more thought. The practice has really shifted my approach to the page. Now, instead of my goal being to write something good, I tell myself all I need to do is show up and write something true. True, of course, does not mean factual. I would be lying, Eduardo, if I told you I don’t want to write something good. Of course I do! But that intention is not the starting point.

In his book, Fooling With Words, Bill Moyers quotes Mark Doty, who says, “I might write a poem which begins in raw and inchoate feeling. Most of my poems do begin that way. They come tumbling out of me, but that’s a cry, not a poem. An unshaped utterance is not a poem…. You must stand at a distance from yourself and apply all the resources you can muster to the raw stuff of experience.” 

When I read this to Art Goodtimes, he disagreed, arguing for the unpolished—“First thought, best thought,” I reckon. What about you? Where do you stand: fine-tuned or closest to the source?

Ha! This is a great follow up to the last question. So. I feel that it is essential to start with something true … and then I very fiercely believe in craft. Of course the more you read and study, the more tools you bring with you to a first draft—a sense of rhythm, a drive toward a turn. In other words, the more you practice, the more likely it is you have better “first thoughts.”

I sure do understand what Art is saying, though. I would think that most poets know what it is like to wring out whatever is essential in a poem by fine-tuning it too much.

Whether I am writing a poem or revising it (hopefully after it’s very cold so I am a little less attached to it), I ask myself over and over and over, “Am I serving the poem?” I love this notion of being in service to the poem. For me, it’s come out of a mantra given to us by Jack Mueller, “Obey the poem’s emerging form.” I have never had much fondness for the word obey. But the more I feel that I am in service to the poem, the more I get out of the way and let the poem have its way, well, the more powerful the practice, the more powerful the poem.

Is there a poet whom you’re intimidated by? Say, whom you’re nervous about meeting? (Jane Hirshfield? Jorie Graham? Marie Howe? Sharon Olds?) Was it like this, crossing paths with Naomi Shihab Nye?

I suppose the kind of intimidation you are speaking of begins with admiration but is tarnished by comparison and even self-flagellation (“why can’t I be that brilliant, that funny, that wise, that clear”). Pedestal-itis: the impression that another person’s greatness makes them inaccessible. I’m prone this way.

That was the case when I met Naomi a few years ago. We were presenting together at a poetry festival in Ohio, and it became almost immediately clear that the pedestal was getting greatly in the way. There was no chance of friendship when I held her up so high. Luckily she was so warm, so human, it didn’t take long for me to learn I needed to alter my lens.

I have a friend who has a habit of meeting every poet she admires. She seeks them out and befriends them. I have watched her for years with great curiosity and I would like to think I am learning from her. What a gift we give ourselves to surround ourselves with people we consider to be more intelligent, more creative, more funny, more wise—people who inspire us.

I think I am particularly lucky to have landed on Colorado’s Western Slope where the poets tend to be especially friendly, welcoming, supportive and fun. That open-armed, open-hearted environment, fostered for years by Art Goodtimes, Jim Tipton, Karen Chamberlain and others, certainly helps take away some of that intimidation factor.

“Pedestalitis,” to be sure; but it’s, perhaps, a more intimate intimidation I’m asking about. For example, there are certain poets whose works can cause me to fall sort of into despair, wondering what right do I have, poeming, when the world already has this poet, their poems, so beyond my own talents. Michelle Kodis has said, “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness.” Do you struggle with this? If so, how do rise from these ashes, do you have to befriend a person in order to tear down their pedestal?

I think I used to be more intimidated by other poets and fall into the kind of desperation you’re describing. That doesn’t happen so much anymore. Maybe it’s a blessing that comes with age? I think we can exhaust that intimidated part of ourselves so that after years of clenching and shoulding and pedestaling, it finally gives up and we can relax a little more.

Why write? And why poems? Why not essays or stories?

Why write? Who can say why we are tugged to one art or another? For me, words are like friends, and I am infinitely curious about them. I love to know their etymologies. I love to speak them for the pure fun of speaking them. Language thrills me. And why poems? Well, partly because I have no sense of plot. I have written many essays and articles, and I enjoy creative non-fiction, but they don’t have the same magnetism for me as poetry. Perhaps, and I hate to admit it, part of this preference is because poetry is very efficient. I am half-German, and I think that there is a drive toward efficiency bred into me.

“I have no sense of plot,” you said. I disagree. What about “Vivian Learns First Person Possessive” and “Because Sometimes I Get that No Gets Me Nowhere,” from, The Less I Hold; nearly any poem from, The Miracle Already Happening; or even “Telluride Lunaria,” the very first poem from your first published collection, Lunaria? To be clear, I’ve scarcely even begun to scratch the surface. Sometimes plot does happen on the page, true; but there’s no plot unless it happens inside the reader—which all of these poems of yours, and so, so many others, cause to happen. I agree with you about the mysterious tugging toward a specific art form, the elegant efficiency of poetry, but I think you’re far more adept with plot than you give yourself credit for.

I have written a lot of short stories over the years, and I can tell you they are just plain bad. Maybe I have no sense of elongated plot 🙂

You are a singer, both with an a cappella group and in your everyday—have you considered writing lyrics?

I think that a lyricist might be better equipped to say what the difference is between a poem and a song lyric. The fact that I don’t know the difference is probably the reason why I am not a song writer. Having said that, Heartbeat has performed some of my poems as songs—other members have arranged them so we can sing them. And I have collaborated with other composers before—David Lingle even created a four-part choral arrangement based on the seasons that used four of my poems. I enjoy these collaborations and would love to do more, but I haven’t even considered writing songs for the sake of writing songs … Hmmm. Maybe I should learn more about it!

List some poems you wish you’d written.

Well, it’s more a hit list of some of my favorite poems … I am glad they were written. There could be many, many more if you have space …

“For the Anniversary of My Death,” W. S. Merwin

“Cruelty,” Lucille Clifton

“Kindness,” Naomi Shihab Nye

“i like my body when it’s with your,” e. e. cummings

“How You Might Approach a Fawn,” Wendy Videlock

“Postscript,” Daniel Gerber

“Learning to Speak Italian Slowly,” David Shumate

“Love,” Lola Haskins

“And Remember to Be Kind to Yourself,” David J. Rothman

“Roadkill Coyote,” Art Goodtimes

“Rumi, Pay Homage,” Rumi, translated by D. Ladinsky

All 100 Love Sonnets, Pablo Neruda

“O,” A. E. Stallings

“From Blossoms,” Li-Young Lee

“Spring and Fall,” Gerard Manley Hopkins

“Unwise Purchases,” George Bilgere

“Truth,” Alison Luterman

“Autumn,” “You Darkness,” and “I Live My Life in Growing Orbits,” Rainer Maria Rilke

“Concourse K,” Danny Rosen

“I Wanted You in the Kitchen of My Heart,” James Tipton

“The Sabbath Poems,” Wendell Berry

“Ask Me,” William Stafford

Had you been to Telluride before moving/landing here?

Though I lived in Colorado since 1980, my first visit to Telluride was in 1993. I was home on summer break from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I was earning my Master’s in English Language and Linguistics. I had no idea what kind of town it was, but my German friend Babette and I were up for an adventure and drove over. We found a room for $10/night in a hotel being renovated and decided to stay a few nights. That evening, walking down the street, I met the man who would become my husband. After I graduated, that man, Eric Trommer, invited me to come live with him, and though I was wary of living in a resort town, I very muchly wanted to be with Eric. I still have reservations about living near a resort town, as jawdroppingly beautiful as it is, but I am very glad to be married to such a wonderful man and I love the beautiful life we have made together here.

Tell me about Talking Gourds. How did you get involved, and how has it evolved across the years? Are there struggles, finding a poet/writer, each month?

When I first moved to Telluride, Art was director of the Telluride Writers Guild, and he was leading monthly readings and an annual festival in which we passed a gourd around a circle to share our poems and stories. The gourd, a symbol of both the masculine and feminine, was a tradition passed on to him by deep ecologist Dolores LaChapelle. After a year or so, I took over as director of the Telluride Writers Guild. For ten years, I developed a pretty ambitious schedule of events—we had the monthly readings, plus two annual festivals (Walking Words and Talking Gourds), two annual contests, and a monthly writer-in-the schools program. Then, with my second child, I had to give up the leadership. The Writer’s Guild is presently defunct, but Talking Gourds has persisted as a poetry series, now under the umbrella of Telluride Institute. Art and I revived it in 2012. For the past two years it has been hosted at Arroyo, a wine bar in Telluride, on the first Tuesday of the month, and it always features a reader, followed by an open gourd circle. Most months we have themes, such as Water or Red or Liberty, and we invite readers to share poems or thoughts on the theme—though we don’t mind if someone shares on another topic.

I really appreciate the gourd circle. It is so different from the stage model, in which one person is put in the limelight. I like the equality of the circle, a round of listeners and speakers, and I like the symbolism of the gourd—it was the first vessel for a “message in a bottle” and has been a valued plant in many cultures.

What poems of yours have you been surprised by? How/Why?

Well, I would like to think that I get surprised in most of my poems. I push myself to not know how a poem will end. If I think I know the end, I try to write past it. Or I write two endings. My friend Kathryn Bass once called it using an “emergency exit” when we escape a poem by thinking we know where it will go.

But lately my best surprises have come when I have been collaborating. Recently I wrote thirteen poems based on paintings done by Colorado artists for a project sponsored by the Ars Nova Singers. I LOVED it! How else would I have ever gotten an elephant balancing on tea cups into a poem?

Another great surprise was to start performing with cellist Kyra Kopestonsky. We’ve been having so much fun pairing poems with music and rhythm, and it takes performance to a whole new level. I often clap and jump up with excitement when we stumble on a new way to play with the poem and the instrument. It’s just so darn exciting!

Do you write at a specific time, or do you squeeze it in when you’re able?

For the last few years, I have written almost always at night after my kids go to sleep. It seems to me there is a big difference in poems written in the morning and in the evening—one looks forward and the other looks back. It will be interesting to see when my practice changes how it changes the poems, too.

But beyond writing, I think that a poetry practice involves paying attention. This is something I really love about a daily practice. It invites us to be available to the world. I am almost always on the lookout for a poem bud.

Going back to what you said earlier about focusing on writing something true rather than good, doesn’t it typically turn out, anyway, that what is “true” is also “good?”

You are so right. If we can write something true, then chances are its authenticity will ring in the reader, creating resonance. Good is such a strange judgment. I would suggest that I would rather have resonance than be “good” in a technical way. Though of course, it would be great to have both!

 

I’ve another interview, with another poet. I’m thinking, now, I’ll post here as well, say, in a week or so.

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January 28, 2017 · 3:45 pm

Back Again

A wee bit more than a month ago, Nov 10th, I headed home after two weeks in Telluride. At the time, I figured it’d be at least until February or March before my next visit. Wound up not taking that long.

A week and a half ago, I got word that the December monthly meeting of Telluride’s Talking Gourds poetry club, had been moved from the 6th to the 14th. Since I have Wednesdays and Thursdays off from work, I would be able to attend. Further, the guest poet was going to be, Elissa Dickson, who is currently the San Miguel County Poet Laureate and also someone whom I wanted to hear read their poetry. Finally, Dec 14th is my birthday. All these plusses converging, what other choice did I have, but attend?

When I arrived at the venue, last night, it was packed. The only time I’d seen as many folks attend a Talking Gourds was the night Jewel (the singer/songwriter) was one of the guest poets. Last night’s draw was Elissa. She works at the library, is outgoing, and has lived in Telluride for a number of years. Her friends, peeps, loved ones, and other supporters had filled the room.

Speaking for myself, I scarcely know Elissa; I’ve seen her a few times at previous Talking Gourds, and have heard a few of her performance and written poems. Even so with such seemingly little to go on regarding Elissa, my regard for her, and my appreciation and respect of her talents, was enough to cause me to come for the night in Telluride: (Four-and-a-half hour drive, each way; three mountain passes, also each way; not to mention the cost of gas and a hotel room, and the sorta “loss” of my two days off from work.) There are very few others I’d willingly do this for. So, if  I, “scarcely” knowing her as I do, immediately decided to come to Telluride in order to hear her, is it any wonder she packed the house with those who know her far better?

Of course, and to be sure, once I’m here, spending time in Telluride isn’t any burden. I’ve lost count of my overnight(s) visits over the past three or four years, but I’m pretty sure it’s in at least the upper teens. As always, I stayed at Mountainside Inn, and stopped by the local Indie bookstore, Between the Covers, (two times, this time), to buy needed books and the like. Also, I got to touch base with some of own Telluridian “friends, peeps, loved ones, and other supporters.”

Even though I’ll have to be at work by 4AM, tomorrow, “what other choice did I have,” but to come? (Place your bets now, on whether I’ll be able to wait until next year’s Lit Fest, in May, to return.)

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LitFest

Three years ago, Telluride presented its first Literary Arts Festival (“LitFest”), and I wanted to go, but I had very recently spent time there, and couldn’t afford another visit, so soon. Last year, I decided, instead, to visit my mom on Mothers Day, which I likely might have done this year, had Mom not passed away, earlier this year. So this go-around, I booked my hotel early, and began dreaming and waiting.

Of course, reality wasn’t much like any of my dreams; but its quality was at least as high as my dreams’. I met one author and one poet, each of whom I only knew by name and photos. And, I got to see nearly all the Telluridians I already knew.

One of the most popular events of LitFest, is its Literary Burlesque, which is both a metaphoric and literal disrobing of its featured poetesses. I wish I could show pictures from it, due to the costuming and such, but alas and go figure, pictures were not allowed. This was also the only event that you had to pay for. It also had sold-out, the previous two years. Thanks to my knowing one of the co-owners of the bookstore where tickets were being sold, I was able to call and get one, while they were still available.

As these thing often happen with writing type festivals and such, I didn’t get much writing done. Well, it’s not the festival that’s to blame—it’s my addiction to YouTube videos. (I’m seriously wondering whether getting wi-fi for my apartment is a good idea.) However, I’m leaving feeling more solid and grounded in being a writer; more thoroughly a member of the tribe.

Meanwhile, back in Salida, Wednesday is to be the last day for our current kitchen manager and dietician. I’ve struggled mightily giving my writing precedence over my paying job. With the upcoming change of management, it seems a good time to make such a change. However, that’s entirely another sack of worms for perhaps another time.

In a few hours, give or take, I’ll get in the van and head back home. My next scheduled visit, here, won’t be until late October, an entire summer and two-thirds of an autumn away. Maybe I’ll squeeze in at least one visit before then. We’ll see. It’s hard to stay away too long from views like these.

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The Dust Settling

I intended to post, Saturday and Sunday, about the rest of my poetry weekend, outside Breckenridge; but the lodge’s wifi went down, early Friday evening, and never got reestablished. And once I got home, the usual other stuff took precedence, until now. As these things happen, having had the handful of days after the weekend has allowed things to settle, given me more time to sort and figure things out—even moreso than usual.

Frankly, the events of the weekend kinda overwhelmed me. There were more people than I’m used to being around, and in persistent proximity—a draining and aggravating thing for an introvert. Finding a pocket of space and time in order to be by myself and/or write was both frustrating and difficult. It all ate away at my nerves, making me increasingly edgy and pissy. I didn’t particularly like who I was, nor how I was around the others.

But I made it through, and by mid-morning, Monday, my ickiness was on the way out. And what I was remembering about the weekend became increasingly positive. So, now that I’ve had almost a full week to let this past weekend settle, what I have to say about it is starkly different that what I would have said, Saturday and Sunday.

P1020103

So, a week from when it started, here’s where I’m at, at this moment.

For nearly three full days, I got to hang out with twenty-some members of my tribe—three of whom I already knew, and three others whom I just knew by name. It was an intense time, and an overwhelming one. Intense and overwhelming in good ways, as well. I’m still discovering ways the weekend has changed things for me.  I’m gonna be rocking from its ripples for awhile longer.

And, for the first time, I felt I was with my tribe, my people. This is no small thing—I grew up being told, and believing, I was an outsider, never really belonging wherever I was. It is still an easy and natural thing for me to feel apart from my fellows. To be the odd one out. I’ve attended writers’ workshops and conferences; and this was the first time I felt not only that I belonged, but that I was being drawn deeper into the fold.

This was and is no small thing.

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Not What I Think

Yesterday evening, I took a walk a little too late in the day. The sun was already setting when I left, and on the way back it was growing pretty dark. As I neared the lights and buildings of downtown, which is actually on the edge of town, I felt I was returning to a place I knew, a place where I’d spent a significant amount of time, a place I new well; but oddly, it didn’t feel like where I was returning was home. There was a distance, a separation between this place and myself.

I’ve lived here for over a fifth of my life, longer than anywhere else. I am known by name, by face, and by both, here. Yet, last night, it wasn’t to home that I was returning.

There’s five and six and a half years separating me from my older sister and brother. My birth was unexpected. I grew up knowing I was at least partially responsible for Dad not finishing college: “I ran out of money. I ran out of smart sauce. And I had him.” Dad was a wildlife biologist, a facts and science guy. This son of his, however, was a dreamer, a taker of long walks, a talker to himself, a keeper of his own company. Mom becoming pregnant with me was just the first of my surprises.

Midway through fourth grade, Dad was transferred to another city, and I lost all of my friends in the move. Subsequently, I also lost the only remaining people with whom I belonged. I’ve felt a full-on outsider, ever since.

At fifty years of age, I still struggle with being liked, with being admired, being worthy, and with having value. I strongly doubt that anyone could ever really become attached to me. That my being alive in this world could have any positive meaning. (Another lesson learned from childhood was to stay out of the way, not to be a bother to other people.) At the foundation of it all, I do not believe people when they tell me that I matter, that what I’ve written and done has meant something to them. I want to believe, but I’m unable to fully do so. I am forever the odd man out.

Earlier this year, I received a Facebook message from a woman whom I’ve known for a few years. She lives four hours away with her family, and we’ve seen each other six or seven times. She is both wise and perceptive, and what she has to say is taken with high regard by lots of many people. Here’s a pivotal sentence from her message: You bring so much to the world, such generosity of spirit, such clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance), such kindness.

“…[S]uch clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance)…” It stabbed me in the heart when I read it. With such precision, I’d been seen and called by name. My self-deprecating bs was also called by name, called onto the carpet. She is far from alone in seeing me, thus. In fact, I might be pretty much alone in thinking I don’t matter, am a bother to people, not both a joy and blessing—that I don’t belong.

One of the locals, here, is wheelchair-bound. A bumper sticker on his wheelchair says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Seems to me that the crux of my difficulties in becoming a writer, in believing that I might have something to offer, is this same inability to believe in the worth of my writing. To believe in the worth of my ownself.

Perhaps I should stop believing what I think about myself.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island, Sorting It Out

Not Alone

Well, a good bit has happened since my last blogpost. As some of you know, I received a number of hits for this particular post and its link on Facebook. When I posted, I was already turning back toward the light, and that’s been continuing, since. Each of you who reached out, whether through prayers, thoughts, bright blessings sent my way, coming up to me to see how I’m doing and to let me know your door’s always open, and commenting on the blogpost and/or its FB link, or whatever other way, has been a significant element of continued improvement. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

To be sure, I still have miles to go. But I’m not traveling alone. And thank you, again, for that.

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I’m a member of a local poetry group that meets once a month. Each meeting, we’re given an assignment for the next month’s meeting. We’ll be meeting tomorrow, and our assignment will be to have written a letter to poet regarding one of their poems that we’ve spent time with, looking it over and seeing what holds it together. The four poem/poets we were to chose from were: “Thanks,” by WS Merwin; “French Horn,” by Jane Hirshfield; “Scars,” by William Stafford; and “I Might Not Have Believed,” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Me, being who I am, wrote to each poet. (Well, to Kim Stafford, who is literary executor for his father, who died in 1993, re: “Scars.”)

Friday, August 1st, I received a postcard from Kim, thanking me, saying his father would have enjoyed my letter. I was stunned when I realized the postcard was from him. (I’d also recently written a dear friend whose tendency is to send me postcards from her travels; so when I saw I’d received a postcard, I thought it was from her. When I got around to reading it, I quickly realized otherwise.) Yesterday’s mail brought another postcard; this one from Jane Hirshfield. I’m still shaking my head in bewonderment.

Perhaps I’m not alone as a writer, wondering whether my words have mattered, whether they’ve made their intended mark upon a reader. It was a stretching out my hand, writing to each of these four poets and writers. I hoped to hear something back, but I wasn’t expecting it, wasn’t gonna whimper if it never happened. The simple act of mailing a letter was, itself, already such a strong connecting action. To have heard back from two of them, and with such gracious and thankful words, and so quickly…? Well, seems my word do matter, do make their marks.

Perhaps, just maybe, even poets as successful, as esteemed, as these four aren’t so different from me, newbie that I am. Perhaps wondering whether ones words are doing good things, now that they’ve been set out on their own into the world, isn’t something that success and esteem keeps from happening. Just maybe, there’s a same quickening thrill when they receive a letter expressing thanks for what they’ve written, that shows someone has spent time with their poem, deepening their understanding and appreciation of it. Maybe the best way they can deal with their exploding-with-gratitude heart is to grab a postcard, write their gratitude on it, and put it into the mail, pronto. After all, being “a name” in whatever circle doesn’t make you less vulnerable. Make your desire to make a difference diminish any.

It might amaze you, the hands reaching out, waiting for your own hand to do the same.

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(Since it’s not on-line, anywhere, below is Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poem:)

 

I Might Not Have Believed

(Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

 

Because it is our work to love

I give you precedence.

Before the bills, before the making

of the bed, I set my list aside

that I might hold you first.

 

It is intricate, this loving.

I might wish it to be like origami,

a swan, perhaps.

Perfect tucks. Tiny folds.

 

It’s more newspaper hat,

crooked creases, crinkled,

never quite fitting the head.

 

I learn to bow to the clutter,

kiss what is rumpled,

kneel in the muddle and laugh.

 

Whatever this ache, I thank it,

how it keeps your scent

the axis of my dizziness.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island