On Inaccuracy

by Joseph Manning


Joe Manning’s On Inaccuracy investigates the nuanced, sometimes tenuous relationship between seeing and looking as it highlights humanity’s tendency to fail at both. “There are seekers and seers and watchers and viewers. I’m just a looker,” Manning intones as he turns an existential eye inward on his own flaws and relationships, and outward at the beautiful inaccuracies of the world as he observes it. In Manning’s gaze, quotidian experience reveals truths both small and large, and seemingly disparate considerations blossom into fruitful correlation when viewed through his lens: family reunions, failed optical exams, a national symbol falling to earth, these and other situations are scrutinized with a generous curiosity, and sometimes dry wit. Past, present, and future combine to reveal one united world under Manning’s heartfelt and sincere eye. On Inaccuracy is chapbook not to be overlooked.


“We navigate by light that is generated inside of stars, the sun, a fire, a swinging lantern: the inhabitable world takes its form in reflections whose light-source is somewhere else. The planets and their satellites, which, in our eyes, behave so similarly to the stars, are really just reflectors of some other, unmediated light. The moon is a body in a borrowed gown. While the shapes and shadows we see in our eyes have some immutable similarity to the world, those electro-chemical pulses of information are not the things of the world themselves. They are representations of forms. We’re watching shadows in the cave of our own skulls.

Looking at the stars on a clear night in the country, the following question is invariably asked: “Which one’s the pole star again?” It’s as if once this has been established, every other cosmological particular will sort itself out in a sieve of easy azimuths and parallaxes; our position and heading in the universe revealed as though we were looking straight at the lighthouse on a sea becalmed.

I have a tendency to appear certain and correct on matters about which I feel I should be certain and correct; this even when I am practically ignorant. Let us take the position of the Pole Star as one good example: it’s never the big showy one you look at first. It’s never ever that one. Inasmuch as a burning gaseous inferno which is—by orders of magnitude—more distant from us than our sun can be modest, the Pole Star, seen from this planet, is a modest body. It’s always the last one on the handle of the Little Dipper. Every time. Let that be your guide. Or let your iPhone be your guide.”