It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that we pass on the news of Paul Violi’s passing. The poetry legend died of pancreatic cancer on April 2, 2011.
Many of us here at Coldfront were lucky enough to learn under Paul at The New School, and luckier still to remain friends long after graduation. Violi’s kindness, scholarship and friendship are lasting inspirations.
Violi authored eleven books of poetry, a book of prose, and several anthologies. Read what David Lehman has to say about Violi over on The Best American Poetry Blog; Matt Hart reviewed Violi’s most recent book here, and Michael Quattrone does so here. Here is a clip of Violi reading just last year at Pace University; his reading includes the crowd favorite “Counterman.”
Rest in peace dear friend.
Appeal to the Grammarians
by Paul Violi
We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we’re capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we’re ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,
The flat tire at journey’s outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it—here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, “See, that’s why
I don’t like to eat outside.”