Violi grew up on Long Island, studied English literature and art history at Boston University, and upon graduating did map completion and survey work for the Peace Corps in Nigeria. Back in the US, he worked for WCBS TV and served as Managing Editor for Architectural Forum from 1972 to 1974. In 1970 he had begun to frequent The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, becoming part of what came to be known as the Second Generation of New York School poets; in 1978 he was the Project’s Interim Director. He also chaired the Museum of Modern Art Associate Council Poetry Committee. For the last three decades, Violi was a busy and popular university teacher. At the time of his illness, he was teaching in the graduate writing program at The New School and in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
Comic lists drawn from everyday life were a Violi speciality: the call of a horserace, a TV schedule, a ‘Police Blotter’, an index to an imaginary book. One of his best known poems, ‘King Nasty’, is a biting monologue in the form of a ‘movie treatment’ for an execution during the Reign of Terror. He also wrote in a lyrical vein. As difficult as it is to be taken seriously as a comic poet, Violi achieved that. His readings drew enthusiastic audiences in the US and UK. He received the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two National
Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts grant.
Poetry and Motions
Sir: I have just perused your editorial in PNR 201 and, if my memory is not playing me false, I think you were briefly a member of the General Council of the Poetry Society in the 1970s. Of course, as you delicately hint, the current row was brought on by disagreements over Poetry Review, as were the rows in 1949 and in 1976. All of them resulted in the membership or factions of the membership seeking a coup, the most successful being the first when Muriel Spark was summarily dismissed as editor of Poetry Review following a putsch led by Dr Marie Stopes, whose poetry I do not know, but whose other work I am acquainted with after finding a manual on intimacy with one’s partner in my paternal grandfather’s effects after his death. Dr Stopes was subsequently on the General Council, briefly making a final appearance at the AGM in May 1950. The Report of the AGM in the July–August 1950 issue of Poetry Review records that she ‘spoke to her motions’, but on being overruled on the second, when she attempted to amend her motion without the requisite twenty-eight days’ notice, she left the meeting, so that she could not speak on her third. All her motions were eminently sensible and were adopted in some form later, but by all accounts she was overbearing and bossy and had made enemies. Her exit foreshadowed the exits of the British Poetry Revival Group on the General Council in 1976, when they made what they thought was a strategic withdrawal, and the shambolic resignations of the current Trustees. Like Dr Stopes, they discovered nobody wished their return.
I attended performances of Bob Cobbing from the British Poetry Revival when he was alive and have had the privilege of reading the work of Alan Jenkins, who was one of the Trustees who resigned in the latest teapot tempest, but I have yet to find a parallel in their work with that of Dr Stopes. Perhaps, if I place recordings of Cobbing’s explorations of the roots of language and Jenkins’ ruminations on social mores at the end of the twentieth century in a box with the more perfervid of the love letters I received from the amoureuses of my youth and one or two extremely private trinkets, my appalled grandchildren will draw wholly misleading conclusions.
ʻIt is, today, the most incisive voice of a vision of poetry and the arts as central to national lifeʼ
There is much to entertain and engage: reviews, poems, interviews, reports, news and letters.
PN Review invites readers to travel the world of poetry without passports, using the common currency of English. Poems, translation, essays and reviews alert readers and writers to developments at home and abroad, to work from the past, and to the promise and actual achievement of new writing.
PN Review is published six times a year and is available by subscription or from all good bookstores. Subscription is £36 for individuals and from £43 for institutions. All subscribers have access to PNReview Online.
www.pnreview.co.uk The new PN Review Online will go live later this year. The site is now a rich and diverse resource for lovers of poetry and literature around the world. As each new issue is uploaded, a past issue is also added to the site. There is a powerful search engine which allows browsers to search by author, keyword, book title and reviewer, allowing access to decades of interviews, poetry, reviews and article from a range of the finest writers in the English language at the click of a mouse.
Subscription to this site costs the same as the paper magazine, starting at £36 per annum for individual membership, and is included in the magazine subscription rates.