(jose garcia villa)


new title: and since it seems difficult to me, here is a hint: THE FIRST LETTER OF THE ALPHABET. GOOD LUCK! and an interesting conversation in the previous post comments, so check it out and comment!


so there’s been a lot of hoopla regarding the new Best American Poetry. something about how many of Lehman’s students are in the book and even his wife! barbara has written about this…i would hope that my teachers (and friends) would support my work if they were in positions of access (hint hint to everyone out there with journals and presses and connections) – alliances are how poetry communities are built.

and who cares if his wife is in the journal, i cant even count how many times i used poetry to get laid (eek!)(and if i tried to count, it would definitely outnumber the number “of women who attempt writing on such a scale” – we can “count them on the fingers of our hands.” (eek!)


Seriously though, IF you are interested in ethnic poetry, formal innovation, modernism, recovering forgotten poets, YOU MUST BUY AND READ The Anchored Angel: the Selected Writings of Jose Garcia Villa (published by Kaya, 1999, edited by Eileen Tabios).

Villa was born in Manila in 1908 and emigrated to the US in 1930. he published four books of poems and one short story collection. He was awarded the guggenheim by Conrad Aiken, was friends with e.e.cummings, taught at the new school, and was supported by edith sitwell. in the following picture, you can see him sitting in the back wearing a vest (below Auden – whose on the ladder)…the other guests include: elizabeth bishop, marianne moore, delmore schwartz, randall jarrell, tennessee williams, and others:


i was personally shocked when i saw this picture – a philippino poet in deep with the american modernists and i had never heard of him before! eileen accomplished more than just editing a selected volume, she brought his work to light for me (and i hope to you!). WHY he disappeared from scholarship for so long is up for debate. TIM YU explores this question in this wonderful essay

what’s also great about the book is that there are essays at the end by prominent philippino writers/scholars (one is E. San Juan Jr., who i havent read, but i am going to def. check out his books). in the essays, we also learn alot about his life (i wont spoil it but it’s VERY SHOCKING!!!

Villa wrote a lot of ‘metaphysical’ and ‘erotic’ lyrics – these poems (to my taste) are quite dull. THE REAL EXCITING PART is his formally experimental work. like i said, he was friends withe cummings, and you can see this influence in Villa’s most famous ‘comma poems’. here is the first stanza from the poem ‘Anchored Angel’:



what do you all think of this poem? Villa did write a preface note to his method which i will post tomorrow night, but i wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts first.



12 thoughts on “comma’ed

  1. Ah you little objectivist you….

    HORSES: who will do it? out of Manes? Words? and Zukofsky….

  2. As for the poem, I’m curious, what do you find exciting about it? What if the commas were gone would it still hold the same excitement? I mean outside of the form, do you find the content exciting? The subject? The language? I find the poem relying too much on its form to convey its urgency or experimentation and that defeats it a bit… however, the subject and rhythm reminds me of Cesar Vallejo, now that’s some exciting stuff there…

    from “Palms and Guitar”

    It’s this, the other toast, among three,

    taciturn, diverse,

    in wine, in world, in crystal, the one raised

    more than once to body

    and, less than once, to thought.

    Today is even more different;

    today I suffer sweetly, bitterly,

    I drink your blood for Christ the hard,

    I eat your bone for Christ the soft,

    because I love you, two to two, Alfonso,

    and almost could say it, eternally

  3. you got it (and you caught jessica!) – the first line from Zukofsky’s ‘A’ 7: Horses: who will do it? out of manes? Words / will do it […] – one of my favorite poems of all time.

    true, vallejo is great (i esp. like Trilce) …

    all good questions! i dont mind the content/subject so much, kind of reminds me of Rilke. the language isnt so bad: “aerials,of,light”, “liontelling,son”, “red,Christ” –

    does the poem rely too much on its form? i dont know…what do other people think?

  4. Wallace Stevens: The Idea of Order at Key West

    “She sang beyond the genius of the sea”


  5. i think the poem does rely much on its form. i think his comma poems really are about the commas. i had read somewhere that he used found texts and inserted commas into these? so he was really playing with the effect on pacing etc.

  6. DO you think it would’ve been the same effect, pace wise, not visually of course, to simply do 1 word lines? I know I know, we covet with our eyes and they influence how we “feel” about things, but if it is found text, and as you say is a bit about pacing, would that give us mostly the same effect?


  7. foiled again! i thought i’d looked at every chapter of A last night, but apparently not.

  8. mephis and barbara, my next post will be more about villa and provide some response.

    jessica, gotcha!

    francois! YOU GOT IT! this title survived almost 10 hours! and i almost thought it would survive the night…

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