The Tame Magpie
Riddles are the centerpiece of Paul Violi’s posthumously published collection of poems, The Tame Magpie. Fifteen of them are included in the slim volume. According to an introduction by Charles North and Tony Towle, Violi had written riddles as part of his previously published collections. The fifteen new riddles had been found in his notes and journals after his death. Dozens of lines long, the riddles speak humorously about various dignitaries and prominent figures. One riddle is about a specific species of vulture. The people described, however, are somewhat obscure, and I would not know who they are based on the poetic riddle.
My favorite poem from the collection was Subaru All Reasonable Offers Considered. I liked how the mundane language of an owner-written Subaru ad was juxtaposed with figures from Greek epics. The effort was humorous, but in a dry, clever way.
Violi used his wry wit to make readers laugh after scratching their heads. If you pick up Violi’s final collection, don’t miss Heap (a poem that is actually a list of items and shaped like a heap of garbage) and Rosebush in Full Jumbled Bloom about a mailman who pricks his finger on a beautiful rosebush.
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