Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
In 1929, José García Villa (VEE-yah) edited the first comprehensive anthology of Filipino short stories in English, for the Philippines Free Press. The earliest published volume of his own work was also a collection of stories, Footnote to Youth: Tales of the Philippines and Others, released by Scribner’s in 1933. Many of these tales had appeared earlier in Clay, the mimeographed literary magazine which he founded at the University of New Mexico and which first drew the attention of Edward O’Brien. The Best American Short Stories of 1932, in fact, was dedicated to Villa by O’Brien, whose introduction included Villa “among the half-dozen short story writers in America who count” and compared him with one of O’Brien’s earlier discoveries, Sherwood Anderson. Even as O’Brien was prophesying a career for Villa as novelist, however, the young writer had already turned his attention exclusively to poetry. The stories, therefore, retain their interest chiefly as preliminaries to attitudes and techniques associated with Villa’s poems.
A third of the twenty-one stories in Footnote to Youth are semiautobiographical portraits of a hermit protagonist suffering self-imposed isolation in the Philippines, New Mexico, and New York City. There is a repetitive pattern of rejected illegitimate children,...
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
As a self-exile from the Philippines for decades, José García Villa earned awards and a reputation in both the Western and Asian worlds. In the United States, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Academy Award for literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1946, a Bollingen Fellowship, and a Rockefeller grant. In Greenwich Village during the 1940’s and 1950’s, he was considered a “regular,” as a member of the New Directions avant-garde. In Great Britain, his reputation also flourished, as a result of Edith Sitwell’s high praise of his “great and perfectly original work.” Gradually such distinction, coming from overseas, influenced his countrymen at home. Although there were complaints that he did not write about subjects identifiably Filipino, and that he did not write with the folk simplicity of Carlos Bulosan’s New Yorker tales of sweet-sour satire, an entire generation of college-educated Filipinos began not only to envy his success but also to emulate his sophistication and inventiveness. The prominence given him by this growing cult assisted in securing for him a Pro Patria Award, in 1961, and a Cultural Heritage Award in 1962. In 1973, he became the first Filipino writer in English to be declared a National Artist, with a government pension for life.
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Bibliography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Abad, Gemimo. “One Hundred Years of Filipino Poetry: An Overview.” World Literature Today 74, no. 2 (2000): 327-331. Identifies the various periods of Filipino poetry in the twentieth century, placing Villa as a Romantic.
Cowen, John Edwin. “Doveglion: The E. E. Cummings and José García Villa Connection.” Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, December 3, 2006, p. 1. A book of poetry by E. E. Cummings inspired Villa to write poetry. Villa would write to Cummings and they developed a relationship.
Cullum, Linda E. Contemporary American Ethnic Poets: Lives, Works, Sources. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Contains a short biography of Villa.
Espiritu, Augusto Fauni. Five Faces of Exile: The Nation and Filipino American Intellectuals. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2007. A chapter on Villa discusses the difficulty of placing the Filipino writer whose poetry bore little mention of the Philippines.
Francia, Luis H. Introduction to Doveglion: Collected Poems, edited by John Cowan. New York: Penguin Books, 2008. Provides a perspective on the life and works of Villa. The collection draws from poems throughout the poet’s career.
Grow, L. M. “José García Villa: The Poetry of Calibration.” World Literature Written in...
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