Jon Paul Fiorentino – Hello Serotonin

I’m currently reading Jon Paul Fiorentino’s collection of poems entitled Hello Serotonin (2004, Coach House Books). The poems are an interesting commentary on modern Western society, especially that of the 20-30 something age group. In a world where the “new” passes by and is replaced daily, stress and a nervous preoccupation with one’s situation, relationships, and understanding of this crazy 21st century environment can lead to problems of a personal and social nature. These considerations are at the core of Fiorentino’s book.

As the collection’s title hints, there is an strong element of the physical in these poems. The poet breaks down the basic processes of thought and memory (hard enough to understand from a scientific perspective) into such foci as neurotransmitters, astrocytes, receptors, and dopamine, to name a few. There is a sense of trying to comprehend one’s nature and the nature of one’s comprehension. In some cases (“Astrocytes”, and “Let’s Here It For Hydroxytryptamine”, for example) the diction and imagery can reach a level of denseness that leaves the reader stumbling, perhaps losing his bearings for a moment, but this should not be seen as a fault in the work. In these poems one gets a true representation of how difficult it can be to navigate throughout fast moving, highly technological lives.

This also leads to the mention of various neurostimulators, drugs, and the “drip” we experience in waking or making it into work in the morning: “.drip into office. / .every thrush needs tonic. / . hush into a commerce wake. / . everyone is cash-strapped.” (from “Thrush Hour”). It’s almost as if to come through each day one needs a constant IV drip or supply of mood-enhancing modifiers. This can be taken as a negative commentary on the lower ends of life, but one can also see a hint of a cure, existence itself as a kind of medicine and the poet as doctor and diagnosis: “The dreams and scrawls of / excitable speech – the wounds / creak open on every page / like extended-release pills.” (from “Let’s Burn Down The Author”).

As I make my way through the rest of Fiorentino’s well written technicals and engaging work, I think, “He’s showed me the what and the how, now I can’t wait to see where he is taking me”. I’ve already formed the addiction and I’m not going to be so fast to kick it.

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