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Poetry, hydration. We all sow gape-seed.
Uphook Press is a New York City based publisher specializing in work by poets and spoken word artists who love both the ink and the mic. -gape-seed- is their third anthology, with the aim of promoting a nationwide community of performing poets.
Featuring fifty-two poets from Seattle, Miami, Nashville, Eugene, elsewhere, and New York, -gape-seed- also includes a well-hydrated interview with spoken word pioneer Regie Cabico.
Eric Alter, Todd Anderson, Seraphime Angelis, Judith Arcana, Maggie Balistreri, Greg Bem, Andrew Boston, Ryan Buynak, Lauren Marie Cappello, Peter Carlaftes, J. Crouse, Peg Duthrie, Rich Ferguson, Maureen Flannery, Joseph Fritsch, Brad Garber, Joan Gelfand, Sheila Hageman, Deborah Hauser, Karen Hildebrand, R. Nemo Hill, Matthew Hupert, Jen Karetnick, Molly Kat, David Lawton, Wayne Lee, Laura LeHew, Eliel Lucero, Christopher Luna, Victoria Lynne McCoy, Sharon Mesmer, Nancy Carol Moody, Rick Mullin, Puma Perl, G.L. Pettigrew, Kelly Powell, Gabriella Radujko, Francis Raven, C. Marie Runyan, Ken Saffran, Roberto F. Santiago, Mary Slocum, Elliott D. Smith, Charlene Monahan Spearen, Truth Thomas, John J. Trause, Emily Kagan Trenchard, Jacob Victorine, George Wallace, Mark Wisniewski, Liza Wolsky, D. Yurman
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Spoken word is powerful not only in language, but also performance. It can be difficult to capture the essence and emotion on the page; however, the writers in -gape-seed- have done just that. The diverse selection of poetry made it difficult to choose the best writers as each distinct piece had punch and power. At first I was wary; making a successful anthology of spoken word seemed like a tall order, but -gape-seed- inspired me to really feel the language as opposed to just reading it.
At the beginning of the book, Kelly Powell captured my attention with her poem What if Buddha was a Moving Man? The moving man is described as "The one driving the truck smoking / a cigar and belching, showing up drunk / and breaking the credenza." She humanizes the god we are familiar with and allows him to make mistakes and grow as an individual. Rather than holding Buddha to the standards of a higher being, Powell presents us with a contemplative piece of poetry that considers many trials regular people face in our world.
Joan Gelfand treats us to a poem about the infamous Sylvia Plath, titled I Know why Sylvia Plath put her Head in the Oven. She takes us through the day that Plath killed herself and takes us through the stress that pushed Plath over the edge. Her husband leaves for work and Plath is faced with dishes, leftovers, kids to take care of, laundry, spills: the mess of having a family. This family has completely taken over her freedom to write:
She woke with nuggets of poetry
A raging head but the babies needed breakfast
And poems evaporated like English fog
Lifting off the Devon trees.
This anthology features Regie Cabico, a pioneer in the spoken word industry. Uphook Press includes an interview with Cabico in the book to introduce his poetry. He has won countless awards and competed at the national level, and his work has been included in over 30 collections. When asked about the up and downsides of poetry as competition, Cabico admits that regarding the poetry slam, it s an imperfect beast. "It brings out the Black Swan from the poet and sucks the duende from your soul." A lot of hate has stemmed from slamming; however, Cabico has actively worked to promote acceptance of all backgrounds and different ways of life.
In his poetry, Cabico speaks of past lovers and reveals many specific details that bring us into his life and relationships. Instead of giving us a broad, bland overview, he allows us to peer into his sexual interactions in his poem A Midlife Crisis of the Olfactory Kind :
When I went back to The Neverland Bar,
a hobbit offered to suck my dick.
I turned around and said, "That is the nicest thing
anyone has ever said to me!" His offer smelled
a thousand pokes on Facebook
and an episode of Extreme Home Makeover.
I explained to him, I don t want a boyfriend.
I just want to have sex with a guy on a regular basis
whose name I know.
Poetry should make you appreciate the art of experience. Spoken word allows a reader to sit back and be transported to another world. It is truly impressive when spoken word translates to paper just as powerfully, as the writers in this anthology have accomplished. --Aimee Nicole, New Pages
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 canmean 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. --Mark Fogarty, Polarity eMagazine
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