Jon Paul Fiorentino Interview @ The Torontoist
It’s been a long time since the last in my critical interview series at The Torontoist (sarcastic thanks to new book for its help in freeing up my time). However, this streak came to an end today as my piece with Montreal poet, humourist, and novelist Jon Paul Fiorentino hit the net like a banana cream pie to the face of a public official. His book is called Indexical Elegies, is good, and is available from Coach House. A brief snippet is posted below, but really you should just quit your job and devote as much time as you can to reading the whole article.
Jacob McArthur Mooney: I wanted to start us off with a story. A 100% true one, too. It’s set a few months back, while I was waiting in line at the Toronto Greyhound station for a bus to Waterloo. To my surprise and excitement, the young lady behind me was enjoying Stripmalling, your comic novel featuring Evan Munday’s illustrations. I mentioned that I had recently seen you read from Stripmalling, and that I thought you had a new book coming out this fall, called Indexical Elegies.
Anyway, the woman’s reaction was a bit of a smile and then the response, “I can’t imagine this author being into either elegies, or indexing things.” I was too charmed by the answer to press for details. Obviously, Elegies and Stripmalling are wildly different books, tuned to completely different keys. But what, would you guess, did my busmate mean by that? In what ways is this book a unique creation in the context of its author?
Jon Paul Fiorentino: First of all, are you entirely sure she was enjoying Stripmalling? That seems odd. I think your busmate’s response makes perfect sense from a certain point of view. I have written two comedy books (Asthmatica and Stripmalling) and those are the books of mine people are most aware of. I have, however, been writing and publishing poetry since 1998. If you ever see your charming busmate again, please tell her I have range!
I like this idea of being able to write in more than one key. I suppose Indexical Elegies is written in a minor key. It’s a book about loss and the anxiety of loss. It documents and presents an archive of four years of attempting to come to terms with losing my friend and mentor, Robert Allen. Archive theory and indexicality played a large role in the composition the book—for a long time, the poems I had composed for Robert were too raw and lacked a sort of artful disconnect. Putting a theory into practice made these poems work, at least for me.