Identity

From the Shelf

Identity begins its second year with a double, 44-page edition, on thickish paper, with a pleasant and faintly erotic cover. Its contents, however, are not so impressve; it has the range of quality usual in most Cambridge literary publications--some good stuff, some not so good stuff, and some very bad stuff indeed.

One half of the issue (it starts from both back and front and reads into the middle like a high school humor magazine) is devoted to the poetry of Mark J. Mirsky, David Landan, and Thomas Weisbuch, all Harvard undergraduates. Mirsky's poems are mostly short, tight sketches, upon banal subjects, revealing a certain sensitivity, but constantly becoming fouled in their own language. There are technical errors in many of these poems, inaccuracies of expression, inconsistencies in metaphor (even louts, when angry, do not grin, etc.) and a rough, amateurish quality in word choice. There is, however, a certain crude gentleness in these poems which may well develop into some thing not displeasing, if the writer becomes more facile in his language.

David Landon's Six Poems have for the most part neither the virtue of pleasing sound nor coherent sense. One piece, called Heat Lightning begins with the truly incredible line, "The city has a thousand elbows" and goes on to picture men pacing "like armor" with each one carrying a building on his back. The carelessness in this poem is evident to a greater or lesser degree in all of the others. They read as though the poet had chosen his theme, the depiction of a certain impotence, a certain deficiency in communication, and attacked it again and again, rapidly, realizing each time that his attempt has been unsuccessful but not caring to return and to correct, moving on immediately for the next abortive try. He puts together various dissimilar images, which obviously connect in his own mind, but which the reader is likely to find too personal to understand. And, above all, the words when read aloud do not make pleasing sounds. The poetry is by fits markish and over-intellectual, obviously written in haste and, all in all, not easy to read.

Of all the poetry in the issue, Thomas Weisbuch's Five Poems are the most competently constructed, although two, Prayer for Beasts and The Yo-Yo, are awkward and obvious. The other three are carefully designed, with an impressive easiness of rhythm. They are not particularly presumtuous, an attribute to which many may object, and they fulfill their purpose adequately, though without brilliance.

The other half of the issue contains a verse play, called A Wind of Light, by Jonathan Revere, a Dunster House senior. It describes two shallow, dissolute Italian youths who are transformed into passionate tragic characters in a play they are acting out on a hot summer afternoon. The dialogue, though rough in many places is done with some skill and the illusion of the character transformation is reasonably effective. The vast, pseudo-profound generalizations in the tragedy sequence are not always successful, and a number of Revere's phrases (the title, for instance) though pleasant sounding, and even suggestive, have no actual maening. Even with these limitations, however, A Wind of Light is a creditable piece, and should be interesting to see performed at Dunster House later in the year.