Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Paul Violi


Thief Tempted by the Grandeur of February

Wake up! I can’t wait to tell you
How much I learned in my sleep.
And though I remain somewhat modest
And completely charming,
I have indeed changed.

Do you know that taxidermy students
Begin with a mastodon
And end by stuffing a flea?
And as for poetry, it’s easy
And impossible—like stealing from yourself.

Do you know that whenever a weatherman
Grows alarmingly unpredictable,
As long as he retains
A bit of modesty and charm,
He’s promoted to astronomer?

And that like an astronomer in the mist,
I am coaxed onward, in love
With the blessings of sleep,
The lustre of sleeplessness, more and more
Aware of how serious I’ve become
Because of you—serious
And yet somehow remarkably pleasant.

The beauties of the night, I already know
What it’s like to feel cold
And beautiful hair slide through my hands.
Beyond the edge of forgetfulness
Or the last of a fine rain,
A few memories flare
And sputter in a final appeal.
What once seemed true,
What once seemed wrong,
I let them disappear, blown away
By a caress, a spray of light here
And there across slick, wide avenues.
Distant pleasures, distant strife,
I now can say, modestly
But not without significant charm,
I know the errors of my life.


I've 'known' Paul Violi for about twelve years, as much as you can know someone who lives on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and whom you have never actually met, by virtue of having published him in my now defunct little poetry magazine, Blade, and admiring his work tremendously. Paul Violi was one of my entrées into the world of the NY poet, of the kind that had such an influence on the Northern School - and many individual poets - here in England, particularly over the past few decades.

He is published (largely) by Hanging Loose Press, and the poem above comes from his eleventh book of poems, this one entitled Overnight.

You can visit Paul's personal website which features all manner of interesting pieces of information and other details.

Meanwhile, to kick you off, here are a few Violi facts:

Violi was born in New York in 1944. He grew up in Greenlawn, Long Island, and graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Art History. He has written eleven books of poetry, including Overnight, Fracas, The Curious Builder, and Likewise, from Hanging Loose Press, and a selection of his longer poems, Breakers, from Coffee House Press.

Widely published and anthologized both in the US and abroad, Paul has received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry, as well as grants from the Ingram Merrrill Foundation, The New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fund for Poetry, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and a John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001 he received The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

5 comments:

Matt Merritt said...

I like that a lot. I've come across Paul's poems all over the place and enjoyed them, but to my shame never actually bought one of his collections. I'll haave to put that right ASAP.

Jane Holland said...

Ker-ching! Buying new poetry ... that's what it's all about.

(Looks like you owe me a drink, Paul!)

Jx ;)

BarbaraS said...

*groan* I can't buy more books, why do you do this to me, Jane... *sneaks look in piggy bank*

Totalfeckineejit said...

I too like this poem a lot.'And as for poetry, it’s easy
And impossible—like stealing from yourself.' Isn't that exactly what a poem is- stealing from yourself? Cool.

parrish lantern said...

Yeah like this,