Paul Violi: On "Index"

To say that the form and subject of "Index" came to me simultaneously and continued to modify each other as I wrote the poem, may sound a bit convenient, but that is what usually happens when I use a prose form. I had been reading an autobiography--I forget whose, a completely unnecessary book by an egregiously self-indulgent man--and I noticed that the author's egotism even seeped into the end papers, especially the index which by condensing his life seemed to magnify his faults. A different character came to mind, one who was not quite the master of his fate, and an index, with its fragmentary lines, suggested a way to catch both the quick, haphazard changes such a character would endure and his increasingly scrambled perception of them. As I assembled the poem it began to resemble a chronology. This helped define the character more clearly for me and gave the static index, which was developing imagistically, a linear movement as well. The page numbers, initially tacked on as decoration, worked like dates, punctuating the events they paralleled. From then on it was like a run of blind luck in putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The pieces fell into place with little shifting or revision. By going back and indenting all the lines after the first I hoped to imply that the poem was an extract from an index to a larger book, a collection of lives that never made it into Vasari. One change that seems trivial, quirky, in retrospect was mispelling Angiolieri's name (it often appears with variant spelling) but I was going on the impression that indexes are not as carefully proofread as texts. In a way, when I use a prose form I feel I'm adapting a persona, one that speaks a mock-prose. With "Index" I knew I'd set-off and continued to play-off an "argument" between the neutral if not deadpan tone and the wild particulars of the life it described. With regard to formal considerations, how much is a deliberate choice and how much just happens I can't say, but when I do use such forms I assume I'm employing a simple metaphor, a familiar if not trite context yet a very accessible one, by which I don't mean to celebrate the ordinary but to subvert it.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Paul Violi: On "Index" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author David Lehman Criticism Target Paul Violi
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 21 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms: 65 Leading Contemporary Poets Select and Comment on Their Poems
Printer Friendly PDF Version
Contexts No Data Tags No Data

Rate this Content

Item Type Criticism
Average Rating 0/100
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Total votes: 0
Use the above slider to rate this item. You can only submit one rating per item, and your rating will be factored in to the item's popularity on our listings.

Share via Social Media