The greatest benefit I derived from the award was freedom to work without distraction. To put it simply, but I hope not crassly, it paid a lot of bills.
- Paul Violi, January 11, 2001
Paul Violi was an avant-garde poet. Waterworks, a short selection of his early poems, appeared in 1972, and In Baltic Circles was published the following year. He authored eleven books of poetry, including Harmatan (1977), Splurge (1982), Likewise (1988), The Curious Builder (1993), and Fracas (1999). After receiving his Grants to Artists award in 1999, Violi released Breakers (2000), a selection of his longer poems, and Overnight (2007).
The expanded text of Violi's first collaboration with printmaker Dale Devereux Barker, Selected Accidents, Pointless Anecdotes (2002), is a collection of non-fiction prose. Violi and Barker's art books, including Envoy; Life is Completely Interesting (2006), have been acquired by many libraries and museums.
Subsequent to his 1999 Grants to Artists award, Violi was given The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001) and a John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award (2004).
Prior to his 1999 FCPA grant, Violi had received grants from the Ingram Merrrill Foundation (1979), The New York Foundation for the Arts (1987), and The Fund for Poetry (1988, 1992). He was also the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships (1980, 1986).
Violi was managing editor of The Architectural Forum from 1972 to 1974 and worked on freelance projects at Universal Limited Art Editions, researching correspondence of poets and artists and assisting Buckminster Fuller while he wrote the text to Tetrascroll (1982). As chairman of the Associate Council Poetry Committee, Violi organized a series of readings at The Museum of Modern Art from 1974 to 1983. He also co-founded Swollen Magpie Press, which produced poetry chapbooks, a poetry magazine called New York Times, and Broadway: A Poets And Painters Anthology (1979), edited by James Schuyler and Charles North.
Violi graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Art History. At the time of his death he was teaching in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and in the graduate writing program at The New School. He also taught at New York University, The Dalton School, Sing-Sing, Stevens Institute of Technology, Bloomfield College, State University of New York at Purchase, and Scarsdale Teachers Institute.
I am currently writing a series of poems in the form of "Acknowledgments" pages to non-existent works. The most recent is dedicated to Dale Devereux Barker, a friend and printmaker with whom I've collaborated on small editions of very big books. For quite a while I've been drawn to the transilient play that form and imagination set off. And I particularly like adapting or animating prose forms. There's something irresistible about them, either their beauty or stifling familiarity. I think of them as a mold that's reshaped by the molten metal poured into it, or as a stock character that an actor takes into a shaky dimension. Or as a chemistry set in the hands of a dangerously ignorant kid.