Welcome! I’m Tracy Rittmueller…
I was thirteen, riding in the back seat of my parents’ used, maroon 1967 Cadillac Coupe Deville, when I experienced my first ardent need to make my experience comprehensible to another. We were traveling through a monotone landscape—mile after mile of freshly plowed, black fields fringed with melting snow—when we approached a grove of trees. “Green,” I thought, but then I noticed a myriad of variations: emerging golden-green and rose-green leaves; gray-green and forest-green conifers’ needles; Kelly green grass and blue green weeds. My eyes couldn’t stop looking.
My understanding of green became richer, the way wine becomes more sumptuous after you learn to swirl, sip and swish like a connoisseur—every sensory organ alert, mind focused. Previously, the word green had conjured only a fat, basic crayon. My awakening—that first discernment of nuance—gave me such sheer delight I shouted, “Look! Look at all the green!”
No one else in the car was impressed. I tried to tell them. No one understood. So I began my lifelong journey as a writer who uses the tools of poetry to communicate, through poems and creative nonfiction, the inexplicable wonder and unfathomable sorrow of being human.
Now in my fourth decade as a creative writer, I have recently entered a period of synthesis and focus. My desire and motivation to produce creative writing have intensified. I’ve experienced a tantalizing glimpse into how everything I’ve learned supports my vision for creative writing as a bridge-building, relational, peacemaking tool. This begins, of course, with making peace with all the disparate selves of my psyche, and with my relatives, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. I write to reconcile.
My writing flows from a life long attention to the development of a listening awareness. It includes a reverence for the natural world, for everyone around me whether familiar or stranger, for myself and my small place within the vast universe, and for contemporary and historical literature of varied forms and genres. Today my purpose for writing has evolved to communicate, through poems, stories, and creative nonfiction, the unfathomable sorrow and inexplicable wonder of all of us being human together. I aim to make literature that will foster my empathy and compassion and deepen my connection with other people who are like, and unlike me.
My current works in Progress
1) Book of Transformations is a memoir about how poetry and a community of women monastics serve as spiritual companions for me, while I navigate my changing relationship with my spouse during the early and middle stages of his non-Alzheimer dementia. During the winter of 2018-19, I was accepted as a Studium scholar to work in the company of monastic scholars at Saint Benedict’s Monastery. Their conversation and feedback encouragde me to explore my themes more broadly, deeply, professionally, artistically, and ethically.
2) a chapbook — Still Life Broken and Repaired. This collection of poems explores my changing relationship with my husband as we journey through his dementia.
Artistic Training and Experience
Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a Creative Writing Emphasis, University of Minnesota, Program for Individualized Learning (PIL)
Poems: Rag Mag, Sidewalks, Ophelia’s Pale Lilies, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. Essays and Journalism: The Concord Monitor, New Hampshire ToDo; The Newsleaders; Lake Country Journal. Poetry Chapbook: Relearning the Lullaby (Heywood Press, 1996) Books written or edited under my former pseudonym, Tracy Lee Karner, Toward Daylight, becoming a writer despite everything; Thursdays at 2; John Hope Settlement House; Without Mom, With Spina Bifida. You can read about why I used, and then stopped using, a pseudonym in this blog post–Trashing My Brand.
Presentations, Readings & Workshops
The Poetry of Transformation: Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, MN, Spiritual Directors’ Inservice Presentation, October 2019
Creative Process and a Book of Transformations: Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Presentation to Studium Scholars and guests, February, 2019.
Founder/Organizer/Director of Lyricality.org a collaborative of poets & patrons who foster community through poetry by facilitating mutual compassion and shared delight.
Monthly Communal Collaborative Poetry Workshops, Warwick RI, Developer/Instructor, October 2014-December 2015
Poetry Month Celebration, The Elephant Tea Room, Warwick RI, Organizer/Reader April, 2015
Memoir Writing Workshop: Plot your Story, Warwick Senior Center, RI, Instructor, March, 2014. Linebaugh Public Library, TN, Instructor, November, 2012
Newbury Harbor’s Poetry w/ Patricia Fargnoli (NH Poet Laureate) & Friends, Reader April, 2008
Northfield Arts Guild Young Peoples’ Theater Workshop: Playwright and Instructor, July 12-31, 1992; June 6-25 & July 25-August 13, 1993
New Prague Middle School Poetry Performance Workshop: Curriculum, Instructor and Production Director, July 11-23, 1993
Faribault High School Creative Writing 15-day Seminar: Visiting Poet/Instructor, April, 1993; November, 1994
St. Olaf College: Women Poets, Reader, October, 1992
Augsburg College: Celebrating Women in the Arts, Featured Poet/Reader, May, 1992
Northfield Arts Guild Presents MN Poets, Reader, November, 1991
McKnight Foundation Award to increase print and social media presence while researching a writing a book proposal, through Artist Career Development Grant from Central Minnesota Arts Board, October 2020.
1st Place, American Benedictine Academy Monastic Essay Contest 2020, for “Therefore Create Silence.”
McKnight Foundation Award to complete a book-length creative nonfiction manuscript, through Artist Career Development Grant from Central Minnesota Arts Board, November 2018.
Pushcart Prize Nomination in Poetry for Sonnet to Negotiate Peace with Your Dementia, November 2017.
The Loft/Jerome Foundation Emerging Writers’ Award: Honorable Mention, August 2017.
Maxine Kumin’s Advanced Poetry Workshop, Warner, NH, March, 2007 — of 56 New England applicants, Kumin selected 12 poets to participate. I treasure the connections I made with those gifted poets, and with Maxine.
Dean Buchta Merit Scholarship, University of Minnesota, 1992
Split Rock Arts Program Tuition Merit Award for Poetry, 1992
In continuing to write this blog:
I will favor my core values, which I am learning to live more authentically in my journey as a Benedictine Oblate:
- Faithfulness to the practice of a Benedictine way of life.
I believe the universe is comprised of both material/visible and supernatural/invisible realities.
I explore both the “seen and unseen” through essay and poetry.
I believe the acceptance of all reality adds richness and meaning to our lives, supplying necessary wisdom for us to become as beautifully loving–as exquisitely wonderful–as each of us was made to be.
Your presence here honors me. Thank you for stopping by.