Last night's memorial service for Paul Violi confirmed what those of us who love him already knew: his poetry will live on, will find new audiences always, will survive in the valley of its saying. To a standing room only house, Paul's friends, former students, and brother and sister poets read favorite poems and by doing so made even those we'd heard Paul read or read ourselves countless times seem fresh and new. The highlights for me, the moments that I continue to savor, include the soft spoken Charles North's introduction, which functioned as a call to prayer; Michael Quattrone's masterful delivery of "Finish these Sentences" ("Paul read the hell out of this poem," said Quattrone before bringing down the house with his own comic timing); the stillness that accompanied Allison Power's reading from "One for the Monk of Montaudon"; Andrew McCarron's anecdotes about interviewing Paul for his doctoral thesis, and Tony Towle's reading of "Counterman." David read "As I was Telling David and Alexandra Kelley," a poem that has special meaning for me because it was the first poem I'd ever heard Paul read, shortly after moving to NYC .
But by far the most moving, most devastating part of the night was the sustained applause after Tony Towle concluded the program. We remained seated, applauding the empty podium, wishing for what we knew would not happen.
Charles North reminded us of the Paul Violi poetry prize, established by the New School. You can find out how to contribute here.