Cribbing its title from Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class, Fiorentino’s Theory showcases the poet self-consciously edging himself away from the self-deprecating ballads and other self-lampooning grandstanding tactics used to dismiss the sufferings of his characters and poems in previous asthma-charged outings.
In Theory, Jon Paul Fiorentino has exorcised his culture-tapping obsession by confronting it head on with what he does best-writing poetry. With a strict regimen of tightrope-walking, his poems holding steady his grip on reality, this collection is a tight and curt manifesto.
Theory avoids cliché and acts as a case study of the permanent minutia that contributes to loser culture, more importantly, that infests our every waking moment. Whether it’s the deadpan in “Drench” (“Take the 14 bus/ get off,/ drench yourself.”), the sinister in “Loser Down” (“angelic paramedics a stretcherful of ambivalence”) or the spiritually-challenged in “Graham Mall Suite” (“endless religion/ and arson enthusiasts”). Theory is Fiorentino’s most sincere book to date, with poems fresh from a brain worn-down by a suffering collective consciousness that screams: “Whip out your pain vibrator/ and howl an endorsement.” Instead of appropriating a “loser” motif in his book and simply citing loser activities or examples of loserdom throughout history, Fiorentino has bravely invented his own universe of uppers and downers, trudging poems through the modern lifestyle we take for granted. Despite the slightly tone-deaf jukebox disappointment in “Sonnet of R2-D2,” read Theory for its discipline, its progressive mental swerve, and a reminder of who’s changing Canadian poetry in his own sick way. (Nathaniel G. Moore)
by Jon Paul Fiorentino, Coach House Books, 84 pgs, $16.95, 401 Huron St. (rear) on bp Nichol Lane, Toronto, ON, M5S 2G5, chbooks.com