Jose Garcia Villa’s work is Penguin Classics’ featured poem in Filipino American History Month

October 12, 2021 - 4:11 PM
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This composite photo shows the book cover of National Artist for Literature Jose Garcia Villa's work and his, full-length photograph, on street outside St. Luke's Chapel in 1953. (Penguin Classics/Facebook; New York World-Telegram and the Sun photo by Walter Albertin via CC0)

A London-based publishing company featured the work of Filipino national artist José Garcia Villa on its Facebook page amid the commemoration of Filipino American History Month this October.

Penguin Classics, an imprint of publisher Penguin Books, quoted the modernist poet last Thursday and shared a website link to his centennial edition of collected poetry, “Doveglion: Collected Poems.”

The following are some of his verses in “Lyrics: I,” a poem from the collection, as shared by the publisher:

It is what I never said,
What I’ll always sing—
It’s not found in days,
It’s what always begins
In half dark, in half light

The post was shared with the hashtag “#FilipinoAmericanHistoryMonth.”

“Doveglion” contains his poems and other previously unpublished material.

The title is a combination of the words “dove, eagle and lion” which he believed is his true persona.

Villa in his literary career was known as the “Pope of Greenwich Village” who was the only Asian poet among a group of literary giants in 1940s New York such as W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams, and a young Gore Vidal.

He was admired for “the reverence, the raptness, the depth of concentration in [his] bravely deep poems,” according to American poet Marianne Moore.

Villa, according to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, was considered as “one of the finest contemporary poets” who introduced the reverse consonance rhyme scheme, including comma poems that made use of the punctuation mark in an innovative, poetic way.

NCCA said that his first poetry collection, “Have Come, Am Here,” received critical recognition when it appeared in New York in 1942. It was also a finalist for the 1943 Pulitzer Prizer.

Villa was soon bestowed with honors and fellowships like the Guggenheim, Bollingen and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award.

His literary works have appeared in the following books: Footnote to Youth, Many Voices, Poems by Doveglion, Poems 55, Poems in Praise of Love: The Best Love Poems of Jose Garcia Villa, Selected Stories by Hilario Francia, The Portable Villa, The Essential Villa, Mir-i-nisa, Storymasters 3: Selected Stories from Footnote to Youth and 55 Poems: Selected and Translated into Tagalog.

The Filipino poet was granted the National Artist for Literature title in 1973 and served as a cultural advisor to the Philippine government.

Meanwhile, Filipino American History Month is celebrated in October to commemorate the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States in 1587.

It was recognized in the US Congress in 2009.

Since then, various states, counties and cities have established proclamations and resolutions declaring its observance to bring awareness of the significant role Filipinos have played in American history.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 4.2 million Filipinos living in the US as of 2019. This makes them the third-largest Asian origin group in the stateside.