The introduction to the latest anthology of poetry from Uphook Press, you say. say., exhorts the reader to read “with both eye and ear.” This, it turns out, is very good advice, for the poems gathered in this volume are as visually interesting as they are challenging to read aloud–challenging in a good way.
Take, for example, the second poem in the collection, Samantha Barrow’s “Would You Blank?” The first two lines of the poem read, “If I took off my_____________/Would you_____________?” The poem then goes on for several more lines in a similar vein before the narrator note, “Someone once told me that I was very adjective noun.” From a visual perspective, the poem catches the eye due to its Mad Libs-style appearance, and intellectually the reader gets it; as the title suggests, we’re supposed to fill in the blank. And taking this a step further, as with Mad Libs, the blanks in the poem allow for infinite readings and interpretations. At the same time, though, there’s the question of how to read the poem aloud. Does one simply pause silently at each blank? Does one say the word “blank”? Or does one improvise, filling in the blank with a different noun/verb combination for each reading? Given the myriad possible approaches to a live reading of this poem and the others in the volume, it’s easy to see (and hear) why Uphook Press specializes in “promoting a nationwide community of performing poets.”
Needless to say, the possibilities inherent in reading the poems in this collection aloud are not the only reason to read this volume. The poems throughout do a wonderful job of defamiliarizing the world around us–i.e., taking the day-to-day world we know so well and forcing us to look at it with new eyes. A first, tentative caress is likened to a game of Operation. A sandwich made of money comments on our culture of vertiginous if meaningless accumulation. A kitten curled up on a roadside–alive or dead–does the only thing it knows how to do in order to find something approaching happiness.
Overall, you say. say. offers a world of infinite possibilities–for the eye, for the ear, and, most significantly, the mind.
Read Marc Schuster’s “Everybody Knows Kurt Vonnegut but Me” in the forthcoming anthology The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Volume II, due later this month from PS Books!