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Published:April 20th, 2006 05:28 EST
Book Review - Thoughts I Left Behind:  Collected Poems of William H. Roetzheim

Book Review - Thoughts I Left Behind: Collected Poems of William H. Roetzheim

By Maria Grella

In Thoughts I Left Behind, William H. Roetzheim gathers together a collection of poems saturated with an autobiographical edge.  Roetzheim begins his book with a warm, loving dedication and a few simple, welcoming lines.  While verse is largely subjective, a strong effort is made in this collection to appeal to veteran and novice readers of poetry.  Not all are winners, but the good poems make the individual almost forget the forgettable ones.

Thoughts I Left Behind is sectioned off into different chapters, the first of which is entitled “Thoughts While Dying”.  Here the poems touch on highlights of the author’s life.  Topics range from hobbies, death and the loss of youth.  Observations, thoughtful sentiments and advice are imparted in each.  “Working” is the honesty that you don’t put on your resumè.  On “Beware of ‘Friends’:  A Villanelle” he cautions the reader to be weary of false chums who may have mal-intentions.  “Dust unto Dust” is a pertinent, throwback reference of sorts to Citizen Kane and rosebud.  A non-emotional look at the reality of what happens to our material possessions when we have passed, it compares a lost life’s memory to a mailbox, “…silent and unobserved”. 

One of the most touching pieces is “A Poem for Minimalists”, a sonnet devoted to the love of a departed soul.  “Fading into Background” is about the slow crash into the world of silence.  His shortest piece can hardly be considered a poem, as “Dreams” is a 13 word sentence. 

In the section marked “Burial Objects”, Roetzheim writes of youthful memories.  Subjects include a blanket ripped from his arms and wrapped around a new sister, the imagination of playing with what adults consider garbage, the workings of fertility dolls, a worn out, decaying moth meal jacket hidden away for safe keeping, and skeletons, both real and figuratively, in the closet.  The “Haunting San Diego” chapter deals with writings of adult life memories.  Found within are bungee jumping, the first date with your last, treasured rooms for music and a library, and other landscapes, like bridges, cliffs, and wooden trails.

“The Book of Sevens” chapter is sectioned into three parts.  Part I is his take on “The Seven Deadly Sins”, where “Pride”, “Greed” and “Sloth” are exceptional poems.  Part II is the opposite with “The Seven Heavenly Virtues”.  Here the stand out rhymes are “Charity”, “Prudence” and “Faith”, with each poem connected and the last virtue looping back to the first.  Part III is entitled “The Seven Sacraments”, and discusses each, with a good job done on how “Penance” has changed and his success with “Matrimony”. 

In “Responses to the Dead” and “More Responses to the Dead”, Roetzheim answers, responds or parodies poems from other poets.  The best are the responses from Christina Rossetti’s “When I Am Dead, My Dearest”, the parody of Robert Greens’s “Content”,  George Gordon, Lord Byron’s “She walks in Beauty”, Thomas Hardy’s “Broken Appointment”, and Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”.

Poems of himself, old friends and family members are found in “Lost Souls”.  In “Resting Places” the author writes of his worldly travels; the culture and racial unease in the Bahamas, “Waltzing in San Marco’s Square”, and jumping in ice water in Sweden.  A gem shines with “Dinner at the Diner”, which is a relatable tale about a lost chance, a missed opportunity and regret.

While most of his verses are tame, some of his poetry is crude.  Writings that are indecent and almost inappropriate include “First Time”, “Stretch Marks” and his response to William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXXXVIII”.  The message could have gotten across less crass than in these examples.  Good points regarding this collection are many.  Thoughts I Left Behind is an easy read, with a broad range of subject matter and included are notes that help engage the reader, and further explain the meaning. 

One definite thought not left behind is Roetzheim’s love for his wife and his love of poetry.  The author is at his best when infusing his poetry with humor, nostalgia and thoughtfulness.