The intersection of poetic page and stage is an interesting spot. Uphook Press, through its latest anthology, -gape-seed-, has planted itself firmly at this address and shows no signs of moving.
What is a gape-seed? Uphook Press editor Jane Ormerod reports the word has many meanings. “A gape-seed is something stared at by a crowd in wonderment. It can also mean the act of staring. It can also be an idealistic or impossible plan. Or, in other definitions, a gapeseed can be the person doing the staring. It's an old and obsolete English word. To buy or sow gapeseed can mean to daydream and wish for the impossible.”
Or, it seems safe to say, in metaphorical terms, a gape-seed can be either the poem or the poet, and, miraculously, both at once! In any event, there are many daydreams and wishes for the impossible to be found in the pages of -gape-seed-, which collects the work of poets from across the nation.
It seems obvious that the “stage” or wordmusic poems here lose a little in translation (like J. Crouse’s “So”), while the “page” poems are as comfortable as Dad in the Barcalounger. What you don’t get from spoken word pieces on the page are the voice inflections, the hand movements, the body English, and sometimes even the physical gymnastics that help deliver the meaning onstage. And you don’t get the word soup, the idea of words as musical notes coming at you that you can enjoy for their sound, not for their meaning. But what remains on the page can be considerable. It’s like watching a color movie in black and white. It’s different. But it’s also the same movie.
An interview with slam master Regie Cabico has a lot of lucid things to say abut the stage/page contact. I like his idea of a performance poem as a three-minute Broadway showstopper (though there are also those that should close out of town).
He comments on the “muzzy” line between the two artforms. “I can write a really terse economic slam poem but if you read it, it will not give you the choreography and the vocals that accompany it.” Yes, but perhaps he is too dogmatic about it. -gape-seed-reproduces the spoken word poem he was talking about, “A Midlife Crisis of the Olfactory Kind,” and it has a lot of bounce on the page. As it ends with two guys rubbing their cell phones together in a poets-gone-wild version of safe sex, you’re not thinking about what you’re missing by not seeing it performed. You’re laughing.
In fact, humor is the universal sealant here, the element that ties everything together, the nexus between page and stage. It is everywhere in -gape-seed-, in the poems and in the titles, in the page poems and the stage poems.
The humor ranges from amusing to clever to smartass. You’re laughing many times, as in Gabriella Radujko’s poem about her efforts to collect rent money from a tenant who has decamped to Georgia. Not Georgia the state, but Georgia the country. Tbilisi. (A funny word just by itself.) You’re smiling, too, at the playful aesthetics of John J. Trause (“Playing”).
You’re chuckling over titles that tell you all you need to know about the poem that will follow: “Googling the Present Participle” (Wayne Lee), or “What if Buddha Was a Moving Man?” (Kelly Powell), “Where’s the Fire” (Ken Saffran) or “I Know Why Sylvia Plath Put Her Head in the Oven,” (Joan Gelfand) a drop dead gorgeous page poem that stunningly revisits a topic you thought was played out for eternity.
There are a lot of poems in -gape-seed- about daydreaming and wishing for the impossible. The impossible seems to be the specialty of the poets in this sharp and elegantly-designed collection, and maybe of poets everywhere.