In his interview for the book, A Poetics of the Press, Alan Loney, of the small press Electio Editions, found that “there’s always at least a ‘little imagination’ in the practice of craft skills, and there’s always at least a little dollop of self-expression in design” (84). For Loney, the process of printing affects writing at all stages of the writing process, not just when bringing the final piece to the press. Just as I discovered at Meshwork, the idea in the artist’s mind is not always what can be composed on the letterpress, but Loney insists that this effect runs deeper than most writers would consider, down to the size of the paper the manuscript or poem is drafted on. On the other hand, Loney tends to veer away from the explosive expressiveness that other small press publishers experiment with, even to the point where he corrects those who classify his books as “artist books”, as he draws a clear distinction between them and the “press book” his work falls under. Loney may use a small number of font types, but the way his printing focuses more on the text is through an intimate understanding of the effects of form on content and vice versa.
And that was what I found was the most interesting part of the interview: how Loney sees the printer/writer as not just an artist or a writer, but a maker, “one [that] puts things together, bit by bit, discontinuously, like any child making something out of Lego” (77). The composition itself is in the foreground, setting up the playing field for the form and content of the piece that come later. I read this as the physical act of creating coaching and corralling the writing and structure of the piece into the shape it ultimately becomes, making knowing the end result before starting virtually impossible. With this in mind, every small press book is a surprise, making the possibilities of what can be created endless, not just in creating an artist’s book, but in the subtler books, such as the books Loney creates, as well.
“Alan Loney: Electio Editions,” 2012. A Poetics of the Press, edited by Kyle Schlesinger, Cuneiform Press & Ugly Duckling Press, 2021, pp. 68-95.
Electio Editions Blog. http://electioeditions.blogspot.com/. Accessed 27 October 2021.
3 thoughts on “A Composition Playing Field: Alan Loney & Electio Editions”
Its interesting that Loney wants to make a distinction between artist books and press book while refusing to make the distinction between writer and printer. I wouldn’t say I disagree with him. He could after all see that the product is distinct and the activities are distinct while maintaining that the activities are all inherent to the process.
It’s interesting to see a creator who is very strict about separating the term “art book” from their own work. Especially since most artists we have seen have such a strong focus still on art along with the content. But especially since the term “maker” does still attach both the artistic in terms of traditional means and the creative in terms of writing, which seems in contrast to such a strong separation from “art books.”
It’s interesting that he says only a small fraction of imagination and self-expression is present in things like this. Even if I write an objective article for the newspaper, I can still find myself very much in the piece, and I feel like in things like paintings or anything handmade, it’s even more prevalent. While someone may be making multiple copies of a chapbook that seemingly has nothing to do with the maker, the maker can be seen in the process: how tightly or loosely tied the spine is, the crease in which they had to open multiple times while another didn’t create a crease.