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This review is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

A Notion of Living david yezzi, Birds of the Air (Carnegie Mellon University) US$15.95

The differences between absurd youth and wizened adulthood, between what could have been and what has been, are the great themes of David Yezzi's third collection, Birds of the Air. In the long poem 'Tomorrow & Tomorrow' (subtitled 'a travesty'), the speaker is an older man remembering the younger, reminiscing about another life, one lived and passed by. He's the 'irremediably young' man who would be king. Or once was and is no longer. Cast as Malcolm in a production of Macbeth so far off Broadway he needs a German phrase book, he tells us: 'I was an actor. Sort of. / Or, technically, more like a waiter… The show was a disaster'.

The poem - like the book it is part of - takes Shakespeare as starting point, and then veers all over the map. How many lives, which develop in high school and through undergraduate degrees with Shakespeare as misunderstood backdrop, proceed this way? For Yezzi's speaker in 'Tomorrow & Tomorrow', the significance of dramatic and literary moments is apparent - if at all - only years later. Yet this is not so simple as a real-life break-up while studying Romeo & Juliet, a real-life bear attack while performing The Winter's Tale.

If formally similar to a poem like 'The Ghost-Seer' from Azores (2008), Yezzi's second collection, the voice in 'Tomorrow & Tomorrow' is more refined, more certain of itself. That earlier poem had to it fictional elements -  Reminiscent of John Cheever's short story, 'Reunion', in its make-up and psychology. What differentiates 'Tomorrow & Tomorrow' and the other long poems ...


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