Last year a group of freshmen decided that what this University needed was a good five-cent parody of The Advocate. While preparing the projected spoof, the fledgling editors discovered they could assemble enough competent poetry and prose to put out a serious magazine, whence The Island. The editors have consistently demonstrated sound judgement (and laudable enterprise in arranging interviews with W.H. Auden, Howard Nemerov, and Adrienne Rich). Their Winter issue is predictably excellent.
The Island's insightful and eminently readable poetry concentrates on easily recognizable, sometimes commonplace, experiences and feelings. In "The Crest of the Rut," for example, Stuart Davis writes about Cambridge, an ambitious subject for a short poem. Davis' observations are to be taken seriously; but he presents them in the almost comic perspective of someone resigned to the frustration that most students have, at some time, associated with the city: Gashed egos siren here
While cycles whine, O baby, baby, braced
against the hump of waitresses I peer
beyond you to the next booth where my last
disaster spreads herself to disappear --
Jonathan Kamholtz also writes about Cambridge, but replaces Davis' resignation with an energetic and--in a sinister sort of way--humorous frenzy:
A love song to authority because I want to know
what to do with the runaway librarian who is
in my room, and whom, she tells me, is overdue.
Bruce Pennington, Walter Sullivan, and Michael Schmidt record events which would not normally arouse much interest, like walking, swimming, and watching fruit-pickers. But it can be fascinating to look into a fishbowl through the eyes of Schmidt:
There in a fishbowl
sun garbles seaweed and fish in shadows
you discern an occasional eye pass
dead and unblinking near glass
and a bubble detaches.
"A Place for Us" by John Allman traces the movement of the poet's mind as it leaps back and forth between an immediate situation and an ominous vision. As he sits in a restaurant the poet embarks on unpredictable imaginative flights which confuse him and embarrass the girl sitting next to him. By placing the real and the imagined events side-by-side, Allman manages to capture the suddenness of the mental fluctuations wthout imitating their incoherence: I order coffee,
You tell me not to bellow, and the waitress
Resents my struggle with a swelling ocean.
I reach to save you, and you pat my hand;
The waves subside; you whisper of commotion.
The Island's only fiction, "Grisha's Dream," by Gus Magrinat, is a vigorous little story about a moribund "retired intellectual." ("An intellectual is a man who has never forgotten his subconscious. A retired intellectual is an old man who, after years of grappling with himself, finds his intellect wandering like a knight errant and his appetites spent in a trickle of compulsions.") Magrinat's narrative is so engaging and moves so quickly that you are likely to find Grisha dead and the story finished before you realize that you've become pretty fond of the grandfatherly, lonesome eccentric.
The one boring inclusion in the Winter Island is an article about Theodore Roethke. If you know anything about Roethke you probably will not learn much from the article. If you have never heard of Roethke, his own prose is the best introduction. His essays are short, penetrating, and frequently amusing; much like the Winter Island.