Raw: Who are You to Tell Me Who I Am
Poetry Zine, Mirae Lee & Amy Wang, 27 pgs, Issue 1, issuu.com/rawzine, $5
In their short introduction to this inaugural issue, Mirae Lee and Amy Wang ask “Who holds authority over narratives about my identity? Am I who I decide to be, or am I what the world perceives me as? How do I reconcile the different, sometimes conflicting, sides of my personality as a complex human being?” In the nine free-verse poems that follow, they aim to answer these questions, “reclaiming our sense of self and autonomy.”
Raw’s first issue, then, is a selection of affirmation poetry, and it is often a little too clunky to allow its reader to escape unscathed. Wang’s “Starving for meaning,” for instance, begins when her speaker’s optometrist wonders aloud why anyone would decide to be a poet. It ends with the platitudinous, “Sir, I think my vision’s just fine. / I can see crystal clear through the buzz of our hive mind / Earth is just a one-time experience / so heck, I’m going to make this mine.” This selection is fairly representative of the content taken altogether. It certainly comes from a good place, and explores interesting questions, but too often it mixes its metaphors, running over tired truisms in halting verse.
The style and grace with which the zine presents these narratives, however, is refreshingly clean. Wang’s design work is superb, and Lee’s seven illustrations, interspersed evenly throughout the content, fit the tone and approach to this potentially-heavy subject matter with a delicate touch. The zine is well put together, and I will — simply by virtue of the zine’s visual-material quality — keep an eye out for subsequent work by these creators. (Joel W. Vaughan)