Monday, August 30, 2010

Indexical Elegies -- Jon Paul Fiorentino

I knew I would come to a point in this blog where I couldn’t recommend something, and now I find it hard to do. Of all art forms, it’s hardest to dismiss poetry, unless one dismisses it entirely from the start. But if you are invested in poetry, you always suspect that somewhere, deep down, it’s not that a particular poem is bad, just that you are missing something. This comes, I think, from the experience (often in a classroom) of reading a poem that is initially unappealing, and then watching as a favorite teacher makes the poem unfold into something beautiful, and what was once insignificant suddenly becomes profound. It comes also from writing poems and holding them up for approval, only to have others dismiss them. A friend of mine once had a poem passed over in a student poetry contest because “it had too many big words”, according to the reviewer.

So I applied myself to Jon Paul Fiorentino’s latest work, Indexical Elegies, with the honest intention of finding something moving and special, and I have to admit I didn’t find it. I fully recognize the omnipresent possibility that I “just don’t get it”, but here’s what I looked for and didn’t find:
• Lines that stick in my head
• An organization that intrigues me
• Images that stay with me
• A physical reaction: smiling, my stomach churning, my throat catching
• A demonstration of expert skill

Sorry, Mr. Fiorentino.

Here is a poem I found representative of this collection:

Manage to in syntax
Xerox massage it

Bedsores soothe, bedsitters swoon
Back when X cared about things

Intentions pulped or stapled

So close to sleep
yet so closed

The epiphany changes
whenever the font does

It’s easy to look down on you
from this basement suite
I’m sure it has meaning to him, and I don’t intend to dismiss personal significance. But if it has no meaning to us, too, there is no point in us reading it. As rare as I hope reviews of this type are on this site, this is an example of where it feels a lot of poetry ends up these days (and by “these days”, I mean in the last century): fractured prose of personal significance that doesn’t manage to matter to anyone but the poet.

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