Justin Sherwood, a Riggio Honors Scholar who received his MFA degree in poetry last month from The New School for Public Engagement has won the second annual Paul Violi Prize in Poetry for his selection of original poems entitled “Abeyance.” Honorable mention went to Lenea Grace for “National Canvas,” and Alissa Fleck for “Meditations on Salt.” A formal announcement was made at the division’s graduation ceremony on May 17.
This distinguished prize is named after Paul Violi, a nationally celebrated poet and professor, who taught in the New School Writing Program from 2003 until his sudden death in April 2011. Paul excelled as a mentor and inspired his students as much by his example as by his presence. The students loved him and the sentiment was reciprocal. “Simply walking in the door made me a happy man,” he said more than once.
The prize was established by Paul’s friends and family who raised funds for an annual poetry award to be given to exceptional New School Writing students in his honor. All second-year students in the program are eligible to apply by submitting a group of five of their best poems.
Alex Crowley was named the first recipient of the prize in September 2011 and was recognized at the memorial tribute to Paul Violi that took place at The New School on December 2, 2011. On that occasion, thirty-one writers including major literary stars such as Paul Auster, Billy Collins, Ron Padgett as well as New School Writing Program students and alumni each read one of Paul’s poems. Professor David Lehman, poetry coordinator of The New School Writing Program, organized and moderated the event, along with Robert Polito, director of the program, who delivered remarks in Paul’s memory.
More information on Paul Violi and the prize can be found on The New School for Public Engagement’s Dean’s Forum.