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R.I.P. Paul Violi (July 20, 1944-April 3, 2011).

April 6, 2011 \pm\30 11:10 pm

Poetry has lost an honored voice and ambassador with the passing of Paul Violi.

I, that inverted exclamation point, met Paul once about a decade ago after a lecture at the New School. Paul was one of the first “real” poets I had met after moving to New York City to begin my MFA program. I asked him about inventiveness in poetry, his in particular. I had recently read his poem Index. I remember he was engaged during our brief conversation.

In the years since, I, have come to regard him or rather his body of poetry, in a similar way to Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and David Lehman. All of them possess tremendous wit and a heightened dexterity of diction–gracefully gliding between low and high–and all are practiced in forms but unrestricted by them; funny formalists with a penchant for invention. They have all delighted in the surprise of poetry so that we might do the same.

So, as cliched as it is to say that he will live on in the published volumes of poetry he left behind, he will. As long as we continue to read him that is. And we should. So, below is the beginning of one of his poems I have pasted the link for anyone who wants to finish reading it.

Little Testament

To wake on my fortieth birthday
buried in this pile of gifts
and not question how they
or I got here
but proceed with the inventory,
all tatters and extra coda,
and salvage for you what I can
from whatever is fake and forgettable:

Something old, something new, something
borrowed, stolen, scavenged,
a lot simply looted
from the pleasures and shambles of the day.

Tobacco, wine, sacks of cash,
a menagerie, a matador’s doormat
and a little bull,
The Sultan of Passion’s Manual,
a semi-epithalamion,
Sonata for Brutality and Vegetable,
snapshots, a winged thing,
what looks like a self-portrait
of Ponce de Leon’s younger brother, Pounce.

Pick or choose,
keep or toss.
Welcome to a firesale at the local Cornucopia.
Please excuse the whiff of chaos.

Forty years old
and I still can’t see myself
planting flowers
on either the dark edge of heaven or hell.

Though in either place
I can guess which would flourish,
I have a better idea
of what thrives here.
Item: And so, instead of a bribe
for my gravekeeper,
I leave a Trillium,

…for the rest of the poem go to: http://paulvioli.com/LittleTestament.html

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4 Comments
  1. April 7, 2011 \am\30 9:06 am 9:06 am

    He will be missed. He was one of the truly great poets of our time.

  2. April 8, 2011 \am\30 10:48 am 10:48 am

    This is a lovely tribute. I wonder if you would consider posting it on the tribute blog we’ve established at the Best American Poetry blog : http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/paul_violi/

    I’m hoping to gather all of the tributes in a book and and when the time is right send them to Paul’s family. This would make a great addition. And I invite anyone else to post their thoughts and memories of Paul as well.

    Thank you.

  3. Michael Costello permalink
    April 8, 2011 \pm\30 1:44 pm 1:44 pm

    Thank you Stacey,
    I just posted it there. Or rather the draft is saved for review.
    This is a wonderful thing you’re doing.

  4. April 8, 2011 \pm\30 3:53 pm 3:53 pm

    Thanks Michael. It’s up. Please spread the word. These tributes just slay me. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

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