August 2009 Newsletter
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Update on Dickinson
"Dickinson: The Secret Story of Emily Dickinson" moved to the North Park Vaudeville theatre in San Diego, where it played July 23rd through August 7th. All of the shows thus far have been sold out, and it's my understanding that the last two shows are also sold out but if you want to see it, call the box office at 619 220 8663 to see if any last minute seats open up due to cancellations.

The show was featured for a 20 minute segment on KPBS at the San Diego NPR station. Listen to the interview by clicking the link below.

It was heavily reviewed, and the opinions were universally favorable:

San Diego Theatre Scene, Jenni Prisk: Must See. You may not be lucky enough to see the enigmatic Dickinson [because all] performances are sold out. However, I would still call the Theatre to see if you can get in!...Roetzheim, a local playwright, has penned a perceptive 75-minute play about a woman who spends her life in her room, and for a brief moment, we are given the key to that room and allowed to explore its darkness and its light. Al Germani’s direction is insightful and creative.

San Diego News Network: Rhianna Basore is spellbinding as the poet, showing sparks of anger, jealousy, passion, hysteria and depression. It’s a stunning performance. Al Germani directs with precision, keeping the intensity high, as we watch the tortured woman whirl through the disturbing details of her life.

San Diego Magazine: ...the play offer[s] a characterization of the poet as a fully dimensional woman, not just the ethereal, troubled spirit most often described in history books. She’s intellectual and dreamy, sure, but she’s also flirtatious, romantic and childlike as well as sad, angry and fatalistic.

San Diego Uptown News: What patrons witness is a play as puzzling, frustrating and fragmented, and every bit as fascinating as the poet, her life and her poetry. It’s an unsettling evening and that is the point.

Gay and Lesbian Times: This is right up psychotherapist Germani’s alley, and he makes the most of his fascinating subject, staging it as a chamber piece, which keeps the audience’s attention on Emily and the Playwright...It’s a highly recommended outing.

San Diego Reader: Using Dickinson's own words, playwright Roetzheim runs circles around these facile reductions. Emily Dickinson contained more "multitudes" than Whitman. Worth a try.
Listen to the interview on KPBS (NPR Affiliate)
Update on Pound
"Pound: The Poet on Trial" closed after a successful run as part of the Midtown International Theatre Fesival. While there were critics in attendance, none of their reviews have been published yet so we'll need to wait until next month to see what they thought. But audiences were enthusiastic, producers I know who attended had high praise, and Jeff seems to have really gotten the role down perfectly.

The next step for Pound is to find regional theatres we can partner with to tour Pound. Jeff, supported by our stage manager Kate to operate lights, will perform the show around the country for weekend special runs. American International Theater, Inc will partner with the regional theaters involved on a revenue sharing basis. Because the show requires no set and minimal props, it can easily run for a weekend between other shows during the regular season of a regional company.
An Evening's Entertainment
By William I. Elliott
William I. Elliott first arrived in Japan in 1960
to teach literature at Kanto Gakuin University. He
has published seven books of poems and has
co-translated twenty-five volumes of Japanese poetry,
both ancient and modern. Awards include the
TSL-sponsored Sasagawa Prize for Selected Poems
of Shuntaro Tanikawa (Carcanet and Persea) and
an American Book Award for the translation of
Floating the River in Melancholy (Prescott Street Press).

Some samples:

Deeper Dark

There is a dark deeper
Than shadows’ darkness:
Remember the air
Blanketing the pages
In a closed book, where
Darkness is utter.

What Distance Grew

Above the vacant lot streetlights arranged
The night in floating parallelograms;
Light licked along the wires, our voices
Greeted there and quarreled horizontally
Between embarrassed poles, beyond the lights’
Dominion. Beside a lake, above a hill,
Ravens wrapped their claws around our costly
Quarreling and never knew what distance
Grew within their tight objective grasp.

Pointed Out

A covey of quail
Flushed from my brain
Flutter to new cover
Here in the bramble of a poem,
Pretty well-camouflaged.

Puzzle Poem

The last piece of the puzzle
Has fallen into place, thumbed
Into the one
Spot remaining—
The oddest piece of the lot,
The oddest piece of the oddest puzzle;
This piece a part of its sum, the puzzle undone
Until this piece has been placed.

And placed, all pieces in place,
It remains a puzzle,
This puzzle being, in pieces,
Or all pieces placed,
But a puzzle:
Into done.
Poetry Corner
by William Roetzheim
Rhyme and Sound in Poetry

Most of our exposure to poetry involves poetry that includes rhymes. This includes virtually all children’s poetry, most poetic song lyrics, and much classical poetry. This attention to words that sound similar is still an important part of most poetry today, although the definition of “similar” has loosened up quite a bit. Let’s start by looking at a classical rhyming poem written by Robert Greene in the late 1500s.


Sweet are the thoughts that savor of content;
the quiet mind is richer than a crown;
sweet are the nights in careless slumber spent;
the poor estate scorns Fortune's angry frown.
Such sweet content, such minds, such sleep, such bliss,
beggars enjoy, when princes oft do miss.
The homely house that harbors quiet rest;
the cottage that affords no pride nor care;
the mean that 'grees with country music best;
the sweet consort of mirth and music's fare;
obscured life sets down a type of bliss:
a mind content both crown and kingdom is.

The rhymes are emphasized here because they appear at the end of each line. One way to make the rhymes less predictable, both more surprising and more subtle, is to have them appear embedded within the sentences rather than at the end. For example, listen to the embedded rhymes in this fragment from my poem “Fertility Doll” in Thoughts I Left Behind (2006, Level 4 Press, Inc.):

. . . And then the breathless call
when Hi’iaka had the same results
for Betty Lou,
after four years of trying,
crying, clinics too.
But now my laughing
wasn’t easy, now I found that I
was queasy
when I thought of Hi’iaka’s
naked dancing,
watching with those eyes
that seemed to glow.
I know, I know she’s just
a doll and not a god . . .

Emily Dickinson was a pioneer in the use of words that almost rhymed, but did not meet the definition of perfect rhymes. She called these “slant rhymes,” and early editors sometimes tried to “correct” her poems to insert words that had a more perfect rhyme. For example, look at the end words of her poem number 67, a short piece about the fate of intentions never carried out, to see if you can spot the slant rhymes.

A deed knocks first at thought,
and then it knocks at will.
That is the manufacturing spot,
and will at home and well.

It then goes out an act,
or is entombed so still
that only to the ear of God
its doom is audible.

Even the poets of the twentieth century who turned their back on rhyme sometimes paid careful attention to the sound of words in their poetry. For example, they will repeat a specific sound of speech. Listen to the first two sentences of the poem “Maroon” by Stuart Dybek to see if you can guess the consonant sound that is repeated:

A boy is bouncing a ball off a brick wall after school. The bricks have been painted maroon a long time ago.

If you guessed “b,” you win a kewpie doll. Stuart’s almost rhythmic use of the “b” sound does a good job of creating the vocal equivalent of a ball bouncing off a wall.

Another way sounds are used is to select words that sound like the sound they represent. Listen to this sentence from Robert Frost’s poem “Out, Out—“ in which he is describing a saw cutting wood.

And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
as it ran light,
or had to bear a load.

And finally, poets will sometimes even make up words to represent the sounds they want to create, as in this poem by Amiri Baraka.

"Wise I"
WHYS (Nobody Knows
The Trouble I Seen)

If you ever find
yourself, some where
lost and surrounded
by enemies
who won't let you
speak in your own language
who destroy your statues
& instruments, who ban
your omm bomm ba boom
then you are in trouble
deep trouble
they ban your
own boom ba boom
you in deep deep


probably take you several hundred years
to get
Visit William Roetheim's personal website
Performance: Dickinson
North Park Vaudeville
2031 El Cajon Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92104
Tickets $18
619 220 8663 for box office
July 23 - August 7, 2009
Friday/Saturday at 8 PM
Sundays at 2 PM
View our calendar on-line
Fundraising Progress
Looking for regional theatres who would like to partner with us to bring in Pound, performed by the original New York actor Jeff Berg, for a weekend on a revenue sharing basis.
Make a donation now!
This Issue

About William Roetzheim
William Roetzheim is an award winning poet, playwright, and
writer. He began his career in the fine arts in 2001 after retiring from the technology industry. Since that time he has founded a highly aclaimed small press, written or edited several award winning books, directed and produced fifteen spoken word audio CDs, and with his wife Marianne, started an art focused Bed and Breakfast outside of San Diego.
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