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Nine years of life summed up in 69 pages

City of Pewaukee man gives life some perspective in new book of poetry

By RYAN AMUNDSON - TimeOut Editor
December 21, 2005


Poet Tom Rohe

CITY OF PEWAUKEE - An everyday event spurred on a not-so-everyday decision for one City of Pewaukee attorney about a year and a half ago.

"I was driving to work in April of 04 and it dawned on me that I had all this poetry sitting in my basement," said Tom Rohe, who practices law in a Milwaukee firm. "I had about 300 poems in my basement. Forty-three of those poems turned out to be publishable."

And more than a year later, the idea Rohe had while on a commute to work has turned into "Rebel," a 69-page book of poetry he wrote between the ages of 17 and 26.

Just as the title of the book indicates, the theme strung through the compilation is one of youthful rebellion.

"During this period in my life, I was always rebelling against something," he said in the preface of his new book.

The inspiration for the poetry grew out of many areas - his years as an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his years as a law school student at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and the environment he grew up in - his parents owned a campground near Green Bay during Rohe's formative years, and many of his thoughts and experiences from those times are laid out in the book.

"I spent summers at the campground until I was 19," he said. "Through that experience, I developed a great appreciation for nature. I met different people every weekend. Meeting all those people I got to appreciate a wide range of the human experience. ... It opened up my mind in a couple of ways."

As the second youngest of five children, some of the rebellion Rohe felt, and many of the experiences he wrote about, grew from his family experience.

"I had three older brothers, one older sister and one younger brother," he said. "To a certain extent, my brothers and sisters singled me out."

As one would expect from poetry written by someone coming of age, "Rebel" deals with everything from love, sex and partying to rebelling against organized religion, popular culture and political philosophy. It tracks the thought process of a poet questioning almost all aspects of life.



Sun eats moon

and day takes night

as people run

offices and smoke.

Smoke and offices

run people as

night takes day and

moon eats sun.


"The Old Man Begins Writing Poetry"

Having been knocked out

in the drunk of the night,

he awakes to his face

in the mirror,

top button pressing

against his neck

like a fist.

The toilet bowl faithfully


the sick remains.

At work, while trying to concentrate

on the tiny incessant numbers,

he has flashbacks of

his face in the water

being destroyed then covered

with slime.

That night,

with his lower right eyelid


the old man, age 23,

begins writing poetry

"You see enough conformity in the world," he said.

The book stands as a sort of snapshot of one portion of Rohe's life. Since writing his last poem, Rohe has started working as an attorney in Milwaukee, has married and now has two children of his own. He said his thoughts and feelings have changed to an extent since writing his last poem at age 26. He said life-changing events give life new meaning.

"... You realize that you didn't know nearly as much as you thought you knew," he said.

Those life-defining events have also taken away much of the time needed to write more poetry, he said. Family commitments and his job have precluded Rohe from writing more.

"It takes a lot of time to write poetry," he said.

Rohe said putting the work together was not really cathartic and he has no grand plans for "Rebel."

"I just hope people enjoy it," he said.


Tom Rohe

Family: wife, Mary; daughter, Tiana, 8; and son, Jonathan 4

Residence: City of Pewaukee since 1998


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