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About Jose Garcia Villa

by Freeway, 2010
Freeway x Jose Garcia Villa

Jose Garcia Villa aka Doveglion.  Born in Singalong, Manila on 5 Aug 1908. National Artist in Literature. He is the son of Simeon Villa, Emilio Aguinaldo’s physician, and Guia Garcia. He graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) High School and enrolled at at the UP College of Medicine in 1925. Villa first tried painting, but then turned into writing after reading Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.  His poetry first gained fame—or notoriety—in 1929, when he was suspended for one year by the UP administration for the publication of “Man Song.” His penmame Doveglion (derived from “Dove, Eagle, Lion”) is based on the characters he derived from himself. These animals were also explored by another poet in Doveglion, Adventures in Value, a poem dedicated to Villa.

Villa never finished his medical studies. In 1930 he won the Philippines Free Press literary contest for “Mir-i-nisa” and used the prize money to go to the United States. He enrolled at the University of New Mexico and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and pursued post-graduate work at Columbia University. He taught poetry for a while at the City College of New York, 1964- 1973. He also worked in the Philippine Mission to the U.N., 1954- 1963, and became the vice consul in 1965. After he retired in 1973, he continued to teach professionals in his Greenwich Village residence.

Villa started out as a fictionist, with “Footnote to Youth” and “Mir-I-nisa.” In 1932, “Untitled Story” appeared in anthology by Edward J. O’Brien, who culled from different publications his annual Best American Short Stories and Best British Short Stories. The following year, Footnote to Youth, a collection of Villa’s stories, was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Some of the pieces here were later included in Selected Stories, 1962, published in the Philippines by Antonio Florentino.

His first collection of poetry, Have Come, Am Here, 1942, was published in the US and received critical acclaim. Volume Two, 1949, another collection of poetry, was nominated for the Bollingen prize that year, but the award went to Wallace Stevens. In these two volumes, the poet introduced his poetic innovations: the comma poems and reversed consonance. Villa explained that the commas “are an integral and essential part of the medium: regulating the poem’s verbal density and time movement, enabling each word to attain a fuller tonal value and the line movement to become more measured…” On reversed consonance, which is a new method of rhyming,.. never been used in the history of English poetry,” Villa said. “the last sounded consonants of the last syllable, or the last principle consonants of a word, are reversed for the corresponding rime.” “Near” would therefore rime with “run,” “rain,” “green,” or reign.”

Three other collections of Villa’s poems are: Selected Poems and New, 1958, which gathers his works between 1937 and 1957 and selections from two earlier volumes, Poems 55, 1962, published in the Philippines by Alberto Florentino; and Appasionata: Poems in Praise of Love, 1979, a collection of his collection of his finest love poems.

Villa made one of his significant contributions to Philippine fiction as a critic. From 1927 to 1941, he made a selection of the best Philippine short stories in English as published in various periodicals in the country. Called his “Roll of Honor” these yearly selections initially appeared in the Philippines Herald, then in the Philippines Free press, and eventually in the Graphic. Inclusion in the list was deemed an honor and a recognition that one had “arrived” in Philippine literature.

His critical works include “The Best Poems of 1931”; “Fifteen Literary Landmarks,” 1932, published in the Philippine Free Press; and the anthologies Twenty- Five Best Stories of 1928, 1929, The Doveglion Book of Philippine Poetry by Jose Garcia Villa, 1993, edited by Hilario S. Francia. He is also remembered for his part in the “Villa-Lopez controversy” which polarized Filipino writers into the “art for art’s sake” camp and the “art for social utility” camp. He was for art as the end in itself, while S.P. Lopez took the opposite view.

Villa received the American academy of arts and Letter’s Poetry Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Guggenheim, Bollingen, and Rockefeller fellowships for poetry. In the Philippines, he received honorable in the Commonwealth Literary Awards, 1940; first prize, UP Golden Jubilee Literary Contest, 1958; an honorary doctorate of literature, Far Eastern University, 1959; Rizal Pro Patria Award, 1961; Republic Cultural Heritage Award for poetry and short story, 1962; and an honorary doctorate in literary form the UP, 1973.

On 12 June 1973, Villa was named National Artist in Literature.

Villa died on February 5, 1997, at the age of 88.

See the Freeway x Jose Garcia Villa collection HERE.

Sources:
http://nationalartists.panitikan.com.ph/jgvilla.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Garcia_Villa