A friend wrote from Spain this morning to wish me ‘Happy Paul Violi Day’, on what would have been the New York poet’s 74th birthday. He hoped, he added, to read some of Paul’s poetry online later. I misunderstood, imagining a kind of digital reprise of the small event that he and I and some others held in tribute to Paul at the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney, in May 2011, a year or so after he passed away. And I said that I looked forward to hearing him…
On the assumption that Ann Violi would approve, therefore, I’m posting the work you see below, so that Todd and other friends and admirers of that exquisite thing, the Paul Violi poem, will have something to read that they may not have seen before. Read to themselves, or over the airwaves, if they’ve a mind to.
As far as I know ‘HEAP’ is unpublished. I do know that I’ve never published it, though I still intend to. Paul sent it to me in early October 2010, accompanied by the message that follows. I’d asked him for a contribution to a loose collection I was planning to publish, of my photographs and texts I was collecting by others, the whole thing entitled HEAPS. He said:
I wrote the attached soon after first hearing from you but didn’t send it because I figure it’s not what you have in mind. It’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of every job (outside of teaching and poetry) I’ve had since childhood. Unusable I’m sure, too damn long, but I’m sending it anyway to let you know I gave it a shot.
I’ll explain below the reason for the long delay (‘too damn long’, indeed), but everyone else I asked came up with something wonderful, including Todd McEwen. He it was who first introduced us to Paul and Ann, when they were on an anniversary visit to Orkney, and we ‘tromped’ with them wide-eyed around the usual sights, though long before the Ness of Brodgar had heaved itself into view. Carol and I visited them in turn in Putnam Valley a few years later, going for martinis first when we met him after work, at the Grange Hall, itself long gone under. We walked next day to the lake near Cedar Ledges, to see the boat he kept moored there, then we drove with him to Storm King, before catching the train back south.
Paul and Carol at Storm King, 2003
So, Happy Paul Violi Day!
P.S. As to the why for the delay—aside from the usual practicalities, it’s largely because more pressing matters had begun to take charge. HEAPS had started a couple of years before I wrote asking Paul for his contribution, but by that time, I’d already begun what was becoming a very heap of research activity on the work of the Scottish poet, artist and gardener, Ian Hamilton Finlay. (‘Finlay was always big over here,’ wrote Paul, and he continued: ‘I remember being surprised to learn he’d been in WWII, for I had assumed for a while that he was my age.’ I’ll return to that interesting assumption later on.) At that point, my interest was focused on the early career especially, but it’s long been extended to the whole. Of which, much more below. Brae Editions did manage to put out a few titles in the meantime, and I’ve long intended to start this blog, to cover the activities of the Brae, as we say (Up the Brae!), as well as some aspects of my work on IHF. When Todd wrote, this anniversary seemed a good place to start. A First Post.
P.P.S. For those interested, here’s a link to Paul’s obituary in The New York Times.
P.P.P.S. A heap, text already applied—Stromness, April 2008.
© Alistair Peebles and the Estate of Paul Violi, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of original material published on this site without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or the copyright owner is strictly prohibited.