Has anyone, except literary people, ever heard of this name? Probably not, especially today’s generation of Fifty Shades of What the Heck. This was also one of the reasons why we (study mates) picked him and his works as the center of our thesis writing. The man was extremely remarkable; this was what I thought while reading his biography. Remarkable in a sense that he knows his intelligence very well and I would never be bothered by his utter arrogance because I know he had all the rights to be. Thinking of Jose Garcia Villa simply made questions like “why did I not live during his time?” creep up my neck. God forbid how much I want to dig his grave, meet and conduct an interview with him. Although I doubt I would complete the whole thing without totally passing out.
I’ve read few of his interviews, too. I now would have the perfect answer whenever someone would ask me of who inspired me to write; definitely this man. Not only was his craft outstanding and unique, he also had a fine practice as to how this would transcend into his poetry.
Wait, who was he again?
Jose Garcia Villa was a great Filipino poet. He studied medicine first in the University of the Philippines, early 20th century, and later transferred to law in the same university only to find out that his soul was in the arts, particularly in literature after he tried painting. He wrote “Man-Songs”, an erotic poetry collection, which had caused him his expulsion from UP and to fine 70Php (and not to mention the charge of “poisoning of public moral” to his collection). He later won an award for “Mir-I-Nisa” and a money prize costing 1,000Php which he used in boarding a flight to the US. He then lived there, established his career as a writer, taught few people, won many awards and occasionally returned to the Philippines. But when asked if he’s a Filipino, he cleverly answered “Yes I am a Filipino, but an American resident.”⁽¹⁾
One of his few famous poems was “First a Poem be Magical”⁽²⁾ where he beautifully defined what is poetry according to his own judgments. I love this one, aside from his many other pieces, especially its last two lines.
First, a poem must be magical,
Then musical as a seagull,
It must be a brightness moving
And hold secret a birds flowering
It must be slender as a bell,
And it must hold fire as well,
It must have the wisdom of bows.
And it must kneel like a rose,
It must be able to hear
The luminance of dove and deer.
It must be able to hide
What it seeks, like a bride,
And over all I would like to hover,
God, smiling from the poems cover.
Yes, he can be that fine. But he can also surprise readers with his experimental and unconventional way of conveying a story which had me… shaking my head in amusement. This one is titled “She Asked Him to Come”. I’ve got a tricky and chaotic (and quite filthy) idea about what he really meant with the whole thing, I would love to hear your take on this one so please leave them at the comment box if you have one!
She asked him. To come. She asked. Him. To. Come.
Did she. Ask him. To come. Did she. Or. Did she. Not. Ask him. To. Come. Did she. Ask him. To. Come. She asked. Him. To come. She said. Welcome. Did she. Ask him. To come. Yet she said. Welcome. Did she. Ask him. To come. She said. Welcome. She said. Well. Come. Did she say. Welcome. Or. Did she say. Well. Come. Which. Did she say. When. She asked. Him. To come. Well come. Did she say that. Or. Welcome. And. Did she. Really. Ask him. To. Come. She said. Well. Come. She. Must have asked. Him. To come.
Now. Did he come. Did he. Come. She asked him. To come. Did he. Some. Since. She asked him. To come. She asked. Him. To. Come. And. Did he. Come. She asked him. To come. And. Did he. Come. Or. Did he. Not. Come. Or. Did. He. Come. Or. Did he. Not. Come. Did he. Or did he. Not come. Or did he. Come. She asked him. To come. But. Did he. Come. Or. Did he. Not. Come. Or. Did he. Come. Did he. Or. Did he. Not. Come. Tom. Did not. Come.
She should not. Have asked him. To come. She. Should. Not. Have asked. Him. To. Come. He. Did not. Come. He did. Not. Come. Her Tom. Her dear. Dear. Tom. Did not come. Though. She asked. Him. To come. Tom. Did not. Come. Though. She asked him. To come. Her Tom. Her dear. Dear Tom. Did not. Come. Tom. Who did not. Come.
She. Should not. Have asked. Him. To come. He did. Not. Come.
Damn, imagine if everybody speaks like that in real life. This experimental story appeared in Free Press (1933). During his submission to Free Press, he explained that “I am experimenting with a new form, and I think it is, at least, interesting. I am working against staidness, against mustiness of form. I desire freshness, new vigor.”⁽³⁾ It surely wasn’t staid and musty at all, was it? He ended his statement with a conclusion saying “You don’t have to like this new story, but I wish you would give it a hearing.”⁽³⁾ in spite of the story’s appearance on Free Press, the staff didn’t like the story. But I guess they didn’t like it because, according to Villa, “There was no mind behind the editor, ”⁽¹⁾
There are too many authors out in the world to be admired of and too many of their works to be learned; I’m glad I could proudly claim that, although not many, a few talented writers of Filipino blood such as the likes of Jose Garcia Villa and Nick Joaquin (one incredible writer as well and the only considered contemporary by Villa) are capable of soaring, if not competing, with the finest world class writers.
⁽¹⁾Interview with Doreen Fernandez appeared on “The Writer and His Milieu”.
⁽²⁾Copy of “First a Poem be Magical” courtesy of “Philippine Literatures: Texts, Themes, Approaches” By Augusto Antonio Aguila, Joyce L. Arriola & John Jack G Wigley, UST Publishing House, 2008.
⁽³⁾Copy of “She Asked Him To Come” and Villa’s statement courtesy of Free Press, 1933, appeared on the book “The Writer and His Milieu” by Doreen Fernandez.