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Open Book: Toronto Discusses Writing With Guernica’s Joe Fiorito

Rust is a Form of Fire

Grace O’Connell from Open Book: Toronto recently sat down with Guernica author Joe Fiorito to discuss his new book, Rust is a Form of Fire. Rust is a Form of Fire is constructed from Fiorito’s observations gathered over three days from the corner of Queen and Victoria streets in downtown Toronto. The book was described by O’Connell as “part prose, part poetry, and all urban love letter”, and by Fiorito as “a glosson the idea that, if you stay in one place long enough, and pay attention closely enough, you’ll see what really happens; in my case – hanging out on a downtown corner for 18 hours over three days – I was able to fashion a photographic look at the ebb and flow of the city, its currents, its habits and, by extension our character.”

O’Connell chatted with Fiorito about his distinct style in Rust is a Form of Fire, asking “how would you describe the genre in which you’re writing? Is ‘prose poetry’ an accurate label, or are genre divisions of little value to this project?” Fiorito responded by asserting that “it is neither, and both, but it surely is a combination of my first love, poetry, and my current trade, which is journalism. Call it non-narrative non-fiction if you want a label.” Fiorito pointed out his influences in this project, particularly Georges Perec’s similar recounting of observations made from St. Sulpice in Paris.

Fiorito had several things to say about the city of Toronto itself. When asked why he picked “Queen and Victoria as the place you would conduct this experiment”, he described the intersection of Queen and Victoria as “just such an eddy in the city stream, well-worn, familiar, and, as a result, often overlooked; it is one of those places between here, and there” which gives you “the chance of finding something new or unexpected.” Fiorito’s writing is motivated by the strangeness of Toronto, “I am puzzled by this city; hence my curiosity…We have no fixed identity here, unless it is one of constant change – which is why I wanted to take a snapshot of here and now.” He concludes the chat by stating “writing Rust is a Form of Fire seems to haveunlocked something, because I’ve also begun working on a book of city poems.”

Joe Fiorito writes for the Toronto Star newspaper. He won Canada’s National Newspaper Award for Columns in 1995. He is also the author of five books, including a best-selling memoir, The Closer We Are to Dying. His novel, The Song Beneath the Ice, won the City of Toronto Book Award in 2003.

To read more about Rust is a Form of Fire, visit the Guernica website at:

To read more about Joe Fiorito, visit the Guernica website at:

To read Grace O’Connell’s chat with Joe Fiorito, visit the Open Book: Toronto website at:

Posted in Interviews, News, Poetry.

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