Poetry Friday: “Romeo+Juliet (abridged)” + Interview with Julie Rowan-Zoch

Romeo+Juliet abridged by Renee LaTulippe, illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch

Good friends, you are well met!

No Valentine’s Day would be complete without a good tragedy, and never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo. Ah, I have a long and tearful history with this play, so unbearably beautiful and frustrating and heart-wrenching. Zeffirelli started it, of course, with his five-tissue-box film of absolute perfection.

Romeo and Juliet by Zeffirelli

Then I cried, from start to finish, through the NYC Ballet production some years ago, itself unbearably beautiful in its silence and longing.

Romeo and Juliet Greta Hodgkinson Jason Reilly pDavidCooper

I even cried when my ninth graders rewrote and performed the Tybalt-Mercutio sword fight as a battle between single quotation marks and double quotation marks. It was a mournful day for punctuation.

Copyright 2013 Tagxedo.comR&J word cloud copyright 2013 Tagxedo.com

I love this play deeply, so it is no surprise that I would approach a poem and video about Romeo and Juliet with great seriousness and dignity. My first duty was to ask an illustrator I admire to create appropriate art to accompany my somber poem, and I’m so glad that

Julie Rowan-Zoch

agreed to help me out. Julie has a very distinct style that has been catching my eye for a year now, and she didn’t disappoint. First she sent me this portrait of our star-crossed lovers

Just look at those baleful expressions! GAH! 

Romeo+Juliet illustration by Julie Rowan-Zoch
Romeo+Juliet by Julie Rowan-Zoch

Then she sent me an ingenious graphic that appears below the poem and right above my interview with Julie. (And if you missed my interview with Shakespeare, you can find it right here.)

But first I beg your patience as I continue my solemn tribute to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with this very special episode: 

“Romeo+Juliet (abridged)”

as told and performed by finger puppets


He loved her.
She loved him.
Chance of marriage?
Pretty slim.

Nothing doing:
family feud.

On his side,
smited down,
fatal blow.

On her side,
doting Nurse.
Friar tries:
things get worse.

Plodding donkey,
racing steed:
message mixup

He loved her.
She loved him.
Future outlook?
Pretty grim.

LOVE MC2 by Julie Rowan-ZochLOVE MC2 by Julie Rowan-Zoch

I told you it was ingenious!

[heading style=”1″]SNICKERVIEW™ with Julie Rowan-Zoch[/heading]

How faireth Mistress Rowan-Zoch

Illustrator Julie Rowan-Zoch

But soft, Mistress Julie(t)–who are thee, from whence dost thou come, and for how long hast thou been a rogue and fool-born artiste?
I am but a dreamer, a devoted admirer of picture book craft, filled with a passion to create mine own. I am mother, wife, and artist, born nigh the shore, by the great city once known as New Amsterdam. (On LongGisland; now you know how I really tawk.) I have desired to bring to life that which I could imagine ever since some whipper-snapper challengeth my coloring book world, noting it be not a worthy skill to coloreth within the lines.

(Enough — I can’t keep this “langwich” up!)

Ought not a blogger who bloggeth on poetry wonder wherefore you snatch from the heavens such inspiration as thine eyes and mine hath ne’er seen heretofore? Forsooth! I do wondereth! Pray tell, fair maiden.
Looking to convey a feeling beyond sadness, I imagined Juliet’s face, starting with the head position and the eyes — windows to that heartbreak. Then, as usual, thinking-through-drawing kicks in and a sketch “forms.” The mess of broken lines represents the loss of control over their own lives. Recently I have been posting on the illustrator’s FB critique forum, which Sylvia Liu pulled together with 12×12 members. It has been really helpful to have a reaction/comments before I complete a piece. The LOVE piece evolved in much the same way, only I started thinking about symbols, the crest of the House of Capulet or Montague simplified with the letters C and M. I switched the letters and my brain wanted to read “E=mc squared,” so I fiddled with it to see if I could make it work.

Thou hast methods and style new and wondrous to mine eyes, an art that screameth “’Twas Julie(t) who birthed me unto this world!” Wast thou tutored by the very stars that shineth upon your head? Or is thy pure-driven talent innate as the thumb-sucking of a babe?
I studied advertising design at F.I.T. in NYC, then continued in “Grafik Design” at the Hochschule fuer Bildende Kuenste in Braunschweig, Germany. I had little training in drawing, painting, illustration in general, and none in digital work (yep, that old). I have “developed” the style by trial and error. For me, style is like voice in writing. Yes, each person’s is unique, but a mouse living under the floorboards doesn’t sound just like a fish near a turn-of-the-century beach resort. I sketch in pencil, scan it in, and “trace it” with my mouse in Adobe Illustrator, because that is the only program I’ve got! I used to be able to do lots in Word though. If necessity is the mother of invention, then limitation is a trebuchet for imagination: the path is narrow, but some ideas can go pretty far! (Touché on the use of trebuchet, fair maiden!)

How now dost thou create such marvels?
I hope to answer that question one day. I mean, I hope to have more than one computer program, one set of old watercolors (learning with my kids’ school supplies), No.2 pencils, and a couple of markers. Wait — I did splurge on a big set of colored pencils, but I had a super-coupon!

Hast thou sent thy work into the realm of words and pictures? Hath it been immortalized by the spongy, swag-bellied flap-dragons named publishers?
No publications. Sad, I guess, but I’m still learning. So far, I have only “put forth my creations” via my blog and Facebook artist page. I am working on a PB book dummy and hope to send that out in the next couple of weeks. Last year was a draft-writing flurry — I managed 45 (Zounds!) with the support of the 12 x 12 in ’12 challenge, and this year revising and submitting is my priority. Last year I joined an online crit group and started a local crit group, and at this point I can say that the act of critiquing has catapulted my own writing skills. Highly recommend it!

A beslubbering friend once sayeth to me that love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind. Wouldst thou, then, paint winged Cupid blind? If nay, how would you painteth said cherub?
The way we all love — with all the senses!

Now that thou hast borne witness to the cruel fate of our star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, what soft or stern pearls of advice wouldst thou have given them hadst thou been a citizen of fair Verona, where we laid our scene? Or woulds’t thou have bestowed upon them a painting and called it a day?
I received very wise advice on how to deal with teens, star-crossed or not. Just two words: shut up. Living “forever in the moment,” a young heart can listen, but not hear. I got good advice as I was falling in love for the first time. Did I follow it? Exactly! That’s why I keep it zipped! (Wouldst that the Capulets and Montagues hadst been of a mind to zippeth it!)

At what day and hour mayst we appeareth at your banquet table for the masked ball? Forsooth, we trust thee to keepeth away the poison and daggers.

I dwelleth here:

Blog/Website: Julie Rowan-Zoch
Twitter: @JulieRowanZoch
Facebook Author Page: Artist: Julie Rowan-Zoch

My deep-welled thanks for thy kind visit, Julie(t), and for thy many gifts of art upon which we may feast our eyes.

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities for “Romeo+Juliet (abridged)”[/heading]

  • Writing
    • The poem “Romeo+Juliet (abridged)” uses very short lines to tell a very long story, and each stanza summarizes a key moment in the play. Write a summary poem about one of your favorite stories. Start by making a list of all the major characters, plot points, conflicts, and scenes. Craft your list into a summary poem of the story. It doesn’t have to rhyme!
  • Reading/Performing
    • Read and perform Romeo and Juliet in class. Teachers, a wonderful resource for teaching Shakespeare through performance to middle school students is The Folger Library series Shakespeare Set Free. The lessons are easily adapted to high school, too. (And I know from experience that kids of all ages love this program!)
      Shakespeare Set Free: Romeo and Juliet
  • Creating
    • Put on a finger puppet show of your poem. Make your own puppets with felt or paper, then record your production for posterity.
    • Illustrate your own poem, or trade poems with a friend and illustrate your friend’s poem.
  • Eating
From eChocorange.com. Click pic for recipe.
From eChocorange.com. Click pic for recipe.


I must also thank Julie for creating and surprising me with this marvelous graphic for No Water River to celebrate the blog’s one-year anniversary. The gal’s got style!

NWR graphic
NWR graphic by Julie Rowan-Zoch

parting is such sweet sorrow,
that I shall say good night till it be MORROW…

…when Lady Linda inviteth thee to her banquet table at TeacherDance. Have a turkey leg for me.

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Video Location: Imagine, if you will: fair Verona, town square, church, road to Mantua, tomb.

See more poems in my poetry video library.

“Romeo+Juliet (abridged)” © 2013 Renée M. LaTulippe. All rights reserved.
Illustrations © 2013 Julie Rowan-Zoch. All rights reserved.