I was shocked and very saddened to learn about the death of Paul Violi. I did not know he was sick and learned that he passed away on April 2nd, 2011 from pancreatic cancer.
Besides being an engaging and attentive teacher, Paul was an extraordinary poet. He was not afraid of challenging poetic conventions by writing poems that took on non-poetic forms like TV Guide listings, an author's acknowledgment page, or book indexes. He also wrote poems that were some of the most clever and funniest pieces I've ever read.
Paul had a boisterous laugh and a wicked sense of humour. His knowledge of poetry seemed profound and endless. He was prone to quoting Byron and Pope, among other poets, in class and in conversations.
When I attended Columbia, I was lucky enough to take two classes with him as a teacher: his imaginative writing course and a literature course on satire. When I was applying for grad schools, Paul encouraged me to apply to The New School, where he also taught. Studying at The New School turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had, largely thanks to Paul. It was in his writing workshop that I wrote "Travels Around the Empire", the poem that was the catalyst for my master's thesis, which would later become The Emperor's Sofa.
I don't recall if I ever had a chance to properly thank Paul for his help. I don't think it is possible to thank him enough but this is my small attempt.
Thank you, Paul. From the bottom of my heart. You will be sorely missed by all of us.