Jose Garcia Villa

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Jose Garcia Villa (5 August 1908 – 12 June 1997) is a Filipino poet and a National Artist for Literature. He is known for introducing the "reversed consonance rime scheme," as well as for "comma poems" that made full use of the punctuation mark in an innovative way. Villa is also a short story writer, critic, and painter.

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Background and education

Villa was born in Singalong, Manila on 5 August 1908. He is the son of Simeon Villa, who was Emilio Aguinaldo's physician, and Guia Garcia. Villa went to the University of the Philippines High School. He studied pre-medicine at the University of the Philippines but did not finish the course. He decided to take pre-law, but did not finish it either. Instead, he devoted a good part of his college time writing short stories and poems.

Career

In 1930, he won the Philippines Free Press literary contest for his short story entitled “Mir-i-nisa” and used the prize money to go to the United States. He studied at the University of New Mexico, and later at Columbia University. He taught poetry at the City College of New York from 1964 until 1973. He also worked in the Philippine Mission to the United Nations from 1954 to 1963 and became the vice consul in 1965. After retiring in 1973, he continued to conduct poetry workshops in his apartment in Greenwich Village, New York City.

As a writer

Villar used the pseudonym “Doveglion” for his literary works. He started out as a fictionist, with works such as “Footnote to Youth” and “Mir-i-nisa.” In 1932, “Untitled Story” appeared in an anthology edited by Edward J. O'Brien. A year later, “Footnote to Youth” was published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Some of the pieces in "Footnote to Youth" were later included in “Selected Stories”, published in the Philippines by Alberto Florentino.

His first collection of poetry, “Have Come, Am Here,” in which he introduced reversed consonance, was published in the U.S. in 1942 to critical acclaim. He introduced his comma poems in another collection called “Volume Two,” which was nominated for the Bollingen Prize in 1949. Other collections of Villa's poems include “Selected Poems and New," published in 1958, which gathers his works between 1937 and 1957; “Poems 55," published in the Philippines by Alberto Florentino in 1962; and “Appasionata: Poems in Praise of Love," a collection of love poems published in 1979.

As a critic

One of Villa's significant contributions to Philippine fiction as a critic is his selection of the best Philippine short stories in English which he called his “Roll of Honor.” These selections initially appeared in the Philippines Herald, then in the Philippines Free Press, and later in Graphic. Inclusion in the list was deemed an honor.

Villa also selected works for inclusion in “The Best Poems of 1931,” “Fifteen Literary Landmarks,” “Twenty-Five Best Stories of 1928,” and “The Doveglion Book of Philippine Poetry by Jose Garcia Villa.”

Critical reception

Villa is considered a powerful literary influence in the Philippines. According to Asiaweek magazine, “In a world of English-language poetry dominated by British and Americans, Villa stood out for the ascetic brilliance of his poetry and for his national origin.”

He was dubbed by fellow Filipino writer Salvador Lopez “the one Filipino writer today who it would be futile to deride and impossible to ignore... the pace-setter for an entire generation of young writers, the mentor laying down the law for the whole tribe, the patron saint of a cult of rebellious moderns.” Mark Van Doren wrote that Villa's works are “...So natural yet in its daring so weird, a poet rich and surprising, and not to be ignored.”

Awards and recognition

Villa received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for literature as well as the Shelley Memorial Award. He is also a Guggenheim Prize Awardee and has received the Bollingen and Rockefeller fellowships for poetry. In the Philippines, he received an honorable mention in the Commonwealth Literary Awards for "Poems by Doveglion." He also received the first prize in the UP Golden Jubilee Literary Contest of 1958 as well as an honorary doctorate of literature from Far Eastern University in 1959. Villa is also the recipient of the Rizal Pro Patria Award, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for poetry and short story, and an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of the Philippines. Villa was named National Artist for Literature on 12 June 1973.

Works

  • Footnote to Youth
  • Many Voices
  • Poems by Doveglion
  • Poems 55
  • Poems in Praise of Love: The Best Love Poems of Jose Garcia Villa
  • "Mir-i-nisa"

Personal life

Villa had two sons, Randy and Lance, with ex-wife, Rosemarie Lamb. He died at the age of 88 on 7 February 1997 in a New York hospital, two days after he was found unconscious in his apartment. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried in a barong tagalog in St. John's Cemetery in New York on 10 February 1997.

References

Citation

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