Posts Tagged ‘White Pines Press


George Looney’s The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels (2005)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 8/9, which was published circa April 2007.


George Looney's – The Precarious Rhetoric of AngelsSometimes you find a good book of poems, one that is enjoyable to read and one that you can learn writing from. The poems in George Looney’s The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels (White Pines Press) do both. This book is enjoyable to read. The surface story of each poem makes sense and flows well, and all the layers below the surface create meanings. And in this book, the meanings revolve around loss, or as he says, “Meaning alludes to something lost.” These poems also understand the tension between syntax and the line, and that’s what I’m concerned with right now.

Let’s look at these lines from “Faced with a Mosque in a Field of Wheat”:

                    Not even sex
   can disguise the flatness of place
   topographical maps turn gray
   and the sky blurs, anonymous.

Note how the pauses (the line breaks) cause a tension against the movement of the syntax. Note how that tension forces the reader to slow down to pay attention so as to not overlook, to not anticipate, and to not lose the meaning of what is going on. See and hear how a line makes sense and then is redefined by the next line and the next.

Or consider the opening lines from “A Vague Memory of Fish and Sun”:

   Some rivers bend from sight or burn down
   to nothing but fossils and dust.

Now some of us may have written:

   Some rivers bend from sight
   or burn down to nothing
   but fossils and dust.

But with Looney’s poem, a different tension arises with the syntactical pause after “nothing,” which seems to complete the thought (which is why I made a line break after “nothing”) and seems to complete the line above. In fact, it sounds like it almost is part of the first line, but that’s just what the grammar ear wants. The first line is doing two things. First, it is saying “Some rivers bend from sight,” that is, they disappear. Then we read the “or”, which seems to indicate something contrary will happen. So we anticipate, when we read “or burn down,” that something will remain. This is where the second thing happens, the line has countered the reader’s expectations. So instead of burning down into a pile of ashes, or something, it “burns down / to nothing.” Now here’s the big pause where syntax and line have finally come to agreement – it’s a mental sigh of relief as we get what is going on in the lines, we get our bearings. But now it’s the syntax’s turn to have its way. And it has its way with “but.” Here “but” is acting similar to the “or” except it is also working against what the lines have already done. The “but” doesn’t slow down the movement of the poem but rather propels it forward. Now what was lost when we read “nothing” is now recovered with “fossils and dust.” These lines mimic a vague memory (as the title suggests), and they play with the theme of loss.

Here’s another example of the line-syntax tension:

   nothing. Loss is
   elitist and forgetting is best
   done in layers.
                                (“The History of Signification”)

You see how each line can create its own independent meaning with “nothing” and “loss” balancing and reinforcing each other, and the line almost reads like a definition (if Yoda were reading it). The next line behaves similar with “elitist” and “best” balancing each other, and there is a definition of sorts in there with “forgetting is best.” But here, as is often the case in the poems, the line is working a tension against syntax. The status of “forgetting is best” becomes a how-to on the line break. “How best to forget?” and the third line responds, “Forgetting is best done in layers.”

This back and forth between line and syntax is one of many likeable aspects of The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels. I like how it provides movement in the reading and shiftings in the readings. I like that the book moves as the poems move. I like how I must read precariously.//




Looney, George. The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels. Buffalo, NY: White Pines Press, 2005.//


Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

I love going to the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair every year. It’s one my favorite annual activities. (And it may be my favorite.) I like it much better than AWP. At the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, you can actually hold a conversation of more than one minute. At the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, there are no politics. It’s just writers, publishers, and artists having fun. Plus, it’s more manageable than AWP. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes literature, books, typography, book making, and art.

My favorite tables are always the P22 Type  Foundry, sunnyoutside press, Talking Leaves Books, White Pines Press, and the SUNY at Buffalo Poetry Collection. . . . Oh, and my table: Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. But really, I like them all . . . a lot. And this year there will be 110 different publishers of books, chapbooks, magazines, etc., plus bookmakers, artists, alternative authors, regular authors, poets, zinesters, and more.

Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

The half-day event (noon to 6 p.m.) on Saturday, March 19th, which is being organized by Chris Fritton, will be held at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, which is a converted church with really high ceilings. The first floor is where all the artists, writers, publishers show their wares.

Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

Buffalo Small Press Book Fair – A Look Inside

Upstairs is where they hold events like readings, how to create a hand-made book, and discussions and lectures on various topics. The events vary each year. Here are this year’s events:

Low-Budget Comics: Creation, Publication, and Promotion – Successful local comic artist Kyle Kaczmarczyk talks about his creative process, his work, and how he gets it all out there on a shoestring budget. A must for anyone making and distributing their own comics!

Roundtable Discussion on Editorial Models and the Future of the Small Press – Come discuss small press editing and publishing with special guests Matvei Yankelevich (Ugly Duckling Presse), Rebecca Wolff (Fence Books), and Adam Robinson (Publishing Genius). This special event will take place in the smaller room on the second floor.

Zoetropes: Analog Animation – Our friends from Squeaky Wheel will be presenting their homemade zoetrope and giving participants a chance to make their own animated strips. Learn all about this antique animation technique and how to turn your old record player into an analog animation machine.

Copyright, Fair Use, and other Legal Issues – Sure it might not sound fun at first, but this is your chance as a small-presser to ask all the questions you’ve always wanted to as well as learn about touchy subjects, like trademarks, unauthorized biographies, and defamation. Lawyer Steven Fox will guide you through and answer your questions.

You can also see the schedule here:

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is located at 453 Porter Avenue in Buffalo, NY.

I can’t believe Chris Fritton does this all almost single-handed. Thanks, Chris. You’re amazing.

Chris Fritton

Chris Fritton – The Man Who Does It All

For more information visit Buffalo Small Press Book Fair website: download this flier: Buffalo Small Press Book Fair 2011 PDF.

Any you know what? It really is:

A Saturday afternoon of guilty pleasure for readers and writers!

It’s the chillest book fair in America.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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