Wednesday, July 27, 2005

random notes

Toronto writer and fhole publisher Daniel f. Bradley has been finding a bunch of references online to Ottawa poet and publisher jwcurry lately, even though curry doesn’t want to be on the internet.

The fifth issue of is finally up, including the introduction that Roy MacSkimming wrote to Ottawa poet William Hawkins’ selected poems, Dancing Alone. Outgoing managing editor Anita Dolman will soon be replaced by Vivian Vavassis, and web designer Paul Dechene also leaves for parts unknown.

Former Arc editor and current editor of The Malahat Review John Barton returns to Ottawa on September 8th to read at Collected Works Bookstore (sponsored by the small press action network – ottawa). Opening will be current Arc editor Anita Lahey. The reading is free and starts at 7:30pm.

Melanie Little and Peter Norman leave this weekend for ten months of Calgary, where she will be Writer-in-Residence for the Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Writers Programme at the University of Calgary, replacing last year’s Writer-in-Residence, Toronto writer Natalee Caple. We wish them well! Little also recently won the 2004 PRISM International Short Fiction Contest, with her winning entry “Wrestling” in the summer issue of the magazine, along with some poems by myself.

There's a new chapbook press apparently looking for full-length poetry manuscripts. Check out littlefishcartpress.

I’m again doing poetry workshops at Collected Works Bookstore this fall, 8 weeks of Wednesday nights (over more than 8 weeks from September to November), $200. Email me at az421 (at) freenet (dot) ca to find out about specific dates and spaces.

Here are some poems of mine online.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hello Serotonin, by Jon Paul Fiorentino

Hello Serotonin, by Jon Paul Fiorentino, 2004. Coach House Books. ISBN: 1-55245-136-4 Price: CDN $ 16.95

From the author of transcona fragments and resume drowning, comes Hello Serotonin. This is Jon Paul Fiorentino’s most recent book of poems, and his M.A. thesis from Concordia University.

This collection is a bottle of poetic stimulants amidst a sea of Canpoetry barbiturates. Here, Fiorentino has crafted a witty, often delightfully sardonic collection.

Hello Serotonin is distinctive in its reclaiming of the language of science for poetry. This move is not without its precedents (think Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”) but Fiorentino takes the move into the twenty-first century, grappling with it, making it his own. Terse pieces, like “Dopamine Song,” speak to the surrealism of even the mundane when we experience life on medication:

… snap.
Let every neuron
fire and misfire.

Underdress with a tourniquet.
Slam your way into sleep.

Many of the most memorable pieces in this collection succeed in bringing the reader into the claustrophobic world of the heavily medicated, into the emotional fluctuations of those whom medicine labels “unbalanced.”

Some poems, however, particularly in the section subtitled “Neurotransmissions,” take the scientific language too far for the average reader to follow. Poems, like “Let’s Hear it for Hydroxythryptamine!” choke on an overabundance of medical jargon, such as: “serotonergic agents,” “cholinergic neurons,” “parysympathomimesis” and “platonic agonists.” Diction like this is difficult enough even to pronounce, let alone comprehend, and for the average reader these mammoth terms serve only to frustrate. Much more successful (and numerous) are Fiorentino’s poems in which the scientific terminology is less ostentatious.

The other sections of the book deal less in the scientific language and more in the conventions of the personal lyric, but nearly all the poems allude to the paranoia and surrealism of an over-medicated culture. Even those readers who have never taken mood altering drugs (prescription or illicit) will recognize in Fiorentino’s vacillation between sardonic wit and paralysis a senitivity to the tonic chord of our age.