In this collection of poems, faith brings together the mundane and mysterious to explore how the world offers the solace of forgiveness and love as a comfort against loss. A father remakes the world for his son by the stories he tells him. A ghost hums, “believing music can reclaim / anything.” Monks and lovers, soldiers and spouses, angels, artists, ghosts and children wander these poems, hoping that “the point of flesh is love.”
George Looney’s passionate invocations, beautiful as those of James Wright, James Dickey, and Richard Hugo, aim at both the redemption of the speaker and of poetry, inhabiting the rich tradition of an American masculine lyricism—poignant with spiritual longing and the speaker’s identification with fallen humanity. These are honest and moving poems.
Emotionally, George Looney’s new poems operate within a middle range—a quiet space of reconciliation. Aesthetically, however, he writes within an attitude of abundance, a poetics of plenitude. His modest angels reside in weighty bodies.
George Looney’s lyric hymns to mortality finger their words and images as obsessively as the religious handle their prayer beads, repeating “angel” and “ghost” along with “music” and endless tropes of the human body. In the end it is flesh, present or absent, that persists as the beautiful site and occasion for love.
—Julia Spicher Kasdorf
There’s a great tenderness in these poems, mixed with longing, which often gets us into enough trouble we need something like forgiveness or redemption. Looney’s poems struggle with such matters, traversing the slippery slopes of sin and grace and love. It’s as if Richard Hugo and Thomas Merton had taken a trip together, and Pasolini had filmed it with Maria Callas singing arias in the background.
George Looney’s poems make you bend your head around things you wouldn’t think of on your own, speaking loudly against the background mumble of so much of the sameness we find today. The stunning opening poem will beguile the reader, and I doubt if anyone will easily put this volume down for long. These are thoughtful, intelligent songs and meditations, and a gift from a truly gifted poet.
—Frank X. Gaspar