All The Honey: Insightful, Authentic, Organic
A book review by Steven Law
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, San Miguel County Colorado’s first poet laureate and Western Slope Colorado Poet Laureate, is a contemplative, committed, insightful poet. After dedicating more than two decades of her life to the art, she is a master of her craft, and in her latest poetry collection, All the Honey, her dynamic poetic gifts are on full display.
One of her most recognizable gifts is her inexhaustible curiosity. Trommer is curious about the world: its strange arrangements and designs, its curious connections and intersections, the hidden blessings of a day, an action, a space. Trommer is one of the great ambassadors for life’s everyday, easily-overlooked miracles. She has developed the joyful talent of finding wonder in the ordinary, grace in simple pleasures, the miracle in the mundane. Trommer prepares holy, elegant sacraments out of simple, ordinary ingredients, and passes the vessel to her readers and generously invites us to partake with her. Drinking from this cup is often a transformative experience. The act may imbue the reader with grace, gratitude, deeper empathy. This is true of all of Trommer’s books, but none more so than All the Honey.
One of Trommer’s greatest gifts is her willingness and capacity to inhabit a selected space – whether it’s a car ride with her daughter or slipping through broken slats of a fence to sit alone in an abandoned field – and gather from it everything that is beautiful and noteworthy. An environment, a situation, a moment, an emotion, Trommer gives that space her full attention. Sometimes her attentiveness is that of a camera with its aperture set to f/64, bringing everything near and far simultaneously into focus. Sometimes she uses a poetic macro lens to zoom in on a moment’s smallest, finest details.
Trommer’s third gift is her remarkable use of language. As a bee collects pollen and nectar and mixes it with an enzyme only it creates to produce honey, so does Trommer gather life’s little moments, and through the alchemy of language synthesise an ordinary moment into a poem that is precious and immortal.
All the Honey is Trommer’s thirteenth book of poetry. A portion of it grew from a dark period of her life that was filled with grief, heartache and pain, and follows in the long literary tradition of turning tragedy into art.
Trommer had written more than half of the poems for All the Honey when her teenage son took his life, and three months later her father died of kidney failure. Crushed, and reeling with loss, she was invited/challenged/encouraged by her trusted friends and fellow poets to write again, difficult as it would be.
It seemed like too much to ask of her, to sit with those dark emotions, day after day. Would the process just rip off the scab, deepening the scar? Or could it be a salve that helped her heal? Did her wounded heart even care enough to try?
Trommer accepted the invitation, and for months to come she dwelled in that gloomy space and time. After inhabiting that environment of loss and despair, the reader would expect the resulting poems to be haunting, bleak and filled with sadness and grief, and indeed, some are. In some poems, Trommer does not transmogrify the nectar and pollen of those dark fields into honey, but rather thrusts in her stinger and lets the reader feel the sting, the aching throb, the numbness.
But for the majority of the poems Trommer brings her luminous way of interacting with and seeing the world, and that brightness is all the more visible as she explores the most horrific, painful realms that this life sometimes gives us. All the Honey is insightful, authentic, organic. At times haunting, at times cheery. It contains a great amount of elation, love, hope and healing – poems and passages the reader will mark and reread, dogear and star, and find themselves thinking about months later.
Steven Law is a Contributor at Panorama