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 wishes to finish reading it.