Mary Winfrey Trautmann
Mary Winfrey Trautmann was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1920.  Her father was the theologian Frederick Kershner. She studied at Butler University in Indianapolis and at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In the late 1950s she moved with her husband to California, where she raised three daughters. Mary Trautmann was a founding member of Cleis Press in 1980. In 1985 she published The Absence of the Dead Is Their Way of Appearing and fifteen years later a chapbook called Seeding the Waves appeared. Many of her poems have come out in feminist journals and anthologies. About The Absence of the Dead, May Sarton has written: “Because it is a work of art it forces us to connect with our own depths and to recognize in a quite extraordinary way how we are all held in the mysteries of nature itself and its powers of renewal that may indeed transcend death. . .”

Now she has published  a chapbook of poems about Carol; it’s called Keeping Carol.  In direct and eloquent language, she contemplates the illness and loss of a daughter as well as the spectacle of the natural world she finds around her. Where does the beauty of nature end and the story of Carol begin? They are linked, combined, sometimes indistinguishable . Though the poet’s father was a theologian, and contact with religion filled her earliest years, her solace now is to be found in nature, not faith, and she is closer to the Greek gods than to the Bible. She never asks for pity; there is no anger here, but rather a lot of stoical acceptance. Loss is an essential part of the natural world and of every human life—but Trautmann does not lecture us about this: she shows us. This is not a book about terror and despair, but about harmony and balance. 

I instruct my fear

I instruct my fear to be invisible

mute and deaf

but fear

skips alongside me the instant I wake and stammers

“. . . if I lose you . . . if I lose you . . . if I lose you”

and cocks its elongate ears

toward each splintering second of uncertainty

and listens, listens

becomes the world’s acrobat   performing before crowds

walks a tightrope   through the slow afternoons

changing at six o’clock sharp

into the long distance runner

who will leave messages


during the night

at the door

of my brain


2013 Mary Winfrey Trautmann
mary Winfrey Trautmann was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the July 2013 Second Sunday Poetry Series