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José Garcia Villa was known as the “Pope of Greenwich Village” in 1940s New York City. A proponent of experimentation and invention in poetry, the cerebral poet introduced the “reversed consonance”—when the last sounded consonants of the last syllable are reversed for the corresponding rhyme, such as with near and run, and light and tell—and a new poetic use of the comma, when a comma is placed to separate almost all the words in a poem. He was interested in the relationship between the meaning of human life and the mystery of Creation, and strove to find the I, to “reach that point where Man and God are in kinetic and heroic balance: where the progression itself is the ordering and adhering into Identity.” The following are four poems from Garcia Villa’s collection Anchored Angel: Selected Writings published by Kaya Press.

 

 

151

 

The, caprice, of, canteloupes, is, to, be,
Sweet, or, not, sweet,—

To, create, suspense. A return,
To, Greek, drama.

Their, dramaturgy, is, not, in, the, sweet,
Soil, but, in, the, eye,

Of, birds, the, pure, eye, that, decides,
To, bestow, or,

To, withold. Shall, I, be, sweet, or,
Not, sweet?—looking,

Up, at, your, face. Till, sudden:
I, will, be, sweet!

 

 

136

 

The, hands, on, the, piano, are, armless.
No, one, is, at, the, piano.
The, hands, begin, and, end, there.

There, no-one’s, hands, are, there:
Crystal, and, clear, upon, the, keys.
Playing, what, they, play.

Playing, what, they, are.
Playing, the, sound, of, Identity.
Yet, how, absurd, how, absurd, how, absurd!

 

 

14

 

In my desire to be Nude
I clothed myself in fire:—
Burned down my walls, my roof,
Burned all these down.

Emerged myself supremely lean
Unsheathed like a holy knife.
With only His Hand to find
To hold me beyond annul.

And found Him found Him found Him
Found the Hand to hold me up!
He held me like a burning poem
And waved me all over the world.

 

 

77

 

Now I will tell you the Future
Of God. The futue of God is

Man. God aspired before and
Failed. Jesus was too much

God. Since God is moving
Towards Man, and Man is moving

Towards God—they must meet
Sometime. O but God is always

A Failure! That Time is the
End of the world. When God

And Man do meet—they will
Be so bitter they will not speak.

 

 

Jose Garcia Villa was born in Manila, Philippines, in 1908, and emigrated to the United States in 1929. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico in 1932, then moved to New York for graduate study at Columbia University. Scribner’s published a collection of stories called Footnote to Youth in 1933. In 1933, Villa dedicated himself exclusively to poetry and the experimental opportunities poetry promised. His first collection, Have Come, Am Here, was published in 1942 by Viking, and won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. His next book, Volume Two, was published in 1949 by New Directions, where he served as associate editor from 1949-1951. He went on to publish two more volumes of poetry in the United States —Selected Poems and New (1958: McDowell, Obolensky) and Appassionata (1979: King and Cowen) — and a number of books in the Philippines.

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