I've enjoyed reading the posts here. I was lucky enough to know Paul since 1993 and the posts below confirm what I always assumed, that he was a great teacher as well as a great guy and a brilliant poet. I've just put up some memories of Paul, and a youtube video of him reading last year (taken by his widow, Ann) here. I'll paste in the text below. I hope that a publisher will do both a collected and a selected of Paul's poetry. Unusually, the only 'Selected' ('Breakers' 2000) is of his fine long poems, though it wasn't described as such (in the copy he sent us, Paul wrote in the word 'long' after 'Selected').
My friend Paul Violi died the Sunday before last. I knew that he was deathly ill, with cancer of the pancreas and liver, but only heard last night. Paul’s illness was diagnosed just three months ago and he kept it quiet until near the end, but at least there was time to write and say goodbye. I first met Paul eighteen years ago, when he was on tour here with Kenneth Koch. Martin Stannard was organising the tour and set up a Radio Nottingham reading for Paul, which is where we met. As I recall, they came to dinner afterwards. Later, Paul and his wife, Ann, stayed with us in our new home in Sherwood. Paul visited the UK solo once or twice as well. We were both politics nuts. I remember getting up early with him one morning to hear Clinton give the TV speech where he more or less admitted that Monica Lewinski had given him a blow job.
Sue and I stayed with Paul and Ann at their home in Putnam Valley, New York State in 1999. Lots of long, free-wheeling conversations in and around their lovely home. He took us around the area and out on his little boat. Last time I saw him was when I was in New York for a conference three years ago. We met for a meal near Columbia, where Paul taught a poetry class. Two hours of great conversation about writing, teaching, mutual friends and the literary life. He insisted on paying, then set off for the ninety minute drive home.
The following morning I met Billy Collins, and told him how Paul had introduced Sue and I to his poetry several years earlier. We talked about what a great poet Paul was and how it was a pity that he wasn’t better known outside the US. And he wasn’t, although Martin and I both had a go at getting him some attention by writing pieces in UK magazines (check out Martin’s fascinating 2004 interview with Paul here). In the US, he got all sorts of awards and featured in all the major anthologies, wearing these achievements gracefully and modestly. Paul’s poems were like the man: witty, laconic, erudite in a very self deprecating way, formally inventive, wise and unashamedly entertaining. Indeed, a Violi reading was often laugh out loud funny, as the excellent video (made last year by his wife, Ann) above demonstrates. You also get to hear his rich, utterly American voice. Below is one of my favourite poems of Paul’s, from 1999′s Fracas. There are dozens of others I could have chosen. I pasted this from the memorial blog to Paul that has been set up here. The tributes there demonstrate what I could only assume, that Paul was a great teacher as well as a great poet, always an encourager of genuine talent. He was also a warm, generous, funny man, who died far too young and will be greatly missed. Condolences to Ann and his two children.
There then follows a paste of 'On an Acura Integra' as posted at the bottom of this memorial blog. Well done for setting it up. David Belbin