Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen, Siglio Press, 2012

Reviewed by Timothy David Orme

[Review Guidelines]

A screen is a shield, but also a veil—it's sheer and can be shorn.

Between Page and Screen is a collaborative project between Amaranth Borsuk (poet) and Brad Bouse (developer). It's also a collaborative project between the book and the reader and a computer.
     It's a book of poetry without words.     
     It's an abstract work of digital art.
     It's a digital pop-up book where the words don't pop up from a page, but from a screen, calculated by the page.
     It's a book that opens from its black and white symbols a chasm of whiteness-laced augmented-reality of synergistic reading, enactment, performance, and projection.
     It's a calculated confounding that projects itself onto the reader (via the screen) from every page.
     It's a mirrored reading experience that places the reader in an interpolated, virtual space between the surface of the page and the surface of the screen, a space that places both text and reader as a kind of shadow, a space that enables the reader to see themselves where they are absent.
     It's a beautiful attempt to enact the serious playfulness of language, reading, otherness, the otherness of reading, and of language and reading interacting with the 21st century inhibitions of text via the ambitions of the text, a polymorphous projection that requires a body, an object, and a machine to birth the words of the character and the medium, and that also validates both page and screen, the text and the reader's interaction with that text.

What are boundaries anyways?

     To read Between Page and Screen, one must go to the project's website (www.betweenpageandscreen.com) and open the book's pages towards the computer's web cam, which in turn projects the poem (perhaps text is a better word) associated with that page against a screen of semi-translucent white, partially over the reader that holds the page herself. As soon as the black box of the page is no longer visible to the web camera, the text itself implodes or explodes—self-de-constructs—leaving only the reader. To read Between Page and Screen—both physically and psychically—is to open and share the page with the screen, and in doing so, have the screen expose and share something new, something hidden, something translated and reconfigured back to and onto the reader who is thus decidedly implicated. One not only reads the poems in Between Page and Screen, the poems between P and S, one is placed in the poems—literally between the book's lovers P and S—so that the reader becomes not only witness to the lover, the beloved, and the space between them, but actually exists in that space between them. To get from page to screen, from P to S, the reader must pass through herself.

You only get a portion of the stuff that makes me up—or anyone. The rest hides.

     This is a "book" (project-ion? experience?) that's fully interactive, and being so, the viewer not only commands the text, opens the text, is the shadow of the text, but also has the responsibility of maintaining the text—literally, holding its existence together. This text teaches its readers how to read not simply its words, its polyvalences and spoken sallies, but also its roots—obviously Latin (un)obscured-ly visceral: one's arms are always part of the poem, as are one's tremblings, one's imbalances, a haunting reminder of how fragile texts are (including ourselves), moving entropically towards their own deterioration. Hold still with what is before you, reader.

What's this mania to name what's between us? That way is carnage, carnal, carnival

     This is a book of substance and activation, a locus where naming is both sought and soot, a place of eros-ion but ultimately erosion, a place of do about and a place of doubt—a place one minds is dictated by the mind, playful, yes, but also frighteningly carnal (fleshy) in every way, a remarkable feat for a book whose characters are always writing one another, and yet never present on the page.

Don't shoot the currier, ace. You're cute awry.

     This is a book /space /encounter where metaphors are boundaries that must prop these characters up, must string them into a rapport that only pushes them further from one another, collapses them into dispute, a "fight" both as hearty and as amorous (heart-y) as tender and as tenuous as the language they (let us not forget they are the medium as well) inhabit, create, and are.
     And the book doesn't simply project conventional-looking poems onto a screen. Instead, these texts interact with the screen, taking on various forms (a stock exchange ticker, a concrete poem as pig, a shield). Yet the work always pushes each shape, each form, each utterance to a furtherance of its erotic tensions—those of P, S, page, and screen.

A-1.19 BOOK+0.38 SPX-1.24 IN-2.73 BKS-.074 DNA+0.00 IS-0.17 ROSE-1.75 EROS+1.97 BY+16.82      ANO+1.65 THER+2.35 NOM-0.60

     Many of the poems are letters between P and S. Connecting these two lovers through separation, painful in their sweetness, these epistles enact the erotic paradox: they make the absent present. By writing one another, these lovers cannot physically become one but can, during the space of the letter, extinguish the space between them through language. Even further than that, their letters acknowledge the absent nature of language itself, a system that is not the world it names, that places a symbol where a sound is absent.
     Ultimately, P and S can only come together for a "co-script posthaste postface" although "there is no postscript," and despite the fact that the page and the screen have been together for the duration of the reading. It is also at this instant that the text itself becomes the most interactive with its reader and its medium, as replications or new iterations of each character fall onto the page shone on and reflected in a screen, a direct linking of the book's entire enactment: that page and screen are both digital and physical, each interacting with and in part of the other, in a dialogue we are not only invited to witness but carefully thrust into.
     Between Page and Screen invokes—indeed necessitates—a love affair between the reader of books and the reader of screens, a love affair that is inevitable, timely, lovely.