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“When I Was No Bigger Than a Huge,” by Jose Garcia Villa

January 27, 2011

Today’s, poem, is, most, Dark, and, yet, most, Lit.

Lance Catedral, who suggested reading Villa here in the Feed, along with, well, everyone who mentions him online agrees:  Jose Garcia Villa is a treasure of Filipino literature. Yet I’d never heard of him before Lance’s comment last summer.  And I bet you haven’t either.  We should both buy one of his books: he’s fascinating.

About his use of commas after each word in many of his poems, he wrote: “The commas are an integral and essential part of the medium: regulating the poem’s verbal density and time movement: enabling each word to attain a fuller tonal value, and the line movement to become more measures.”

In this readable, interesting review of Villa’s book, The Anchored Angel, Jean Vengua Gier sympathizes with how “disturbing, even irritating” this comma-innovation may be to read, and adds that “It slows you down, forces you to the moment of the word’s emergence, resulting in what Villa calls ‘a lineal pace of dignity and movement.’ So different from Whitman’s long spew of lines, Villa’s poems do not expand aggressively upon the breath; rather, many of his poems seem to pause in brief, singular moments of exaltation…closer to Dickinson’s poetry of isolation and awe.”

Update:  Lance posted the text of the poem and more at his blog, Bottled Brain.

I read today’s poem from SEAsite (The Center for Southeast Asian Studies) of Northern Illinois University.  It’s in Villa’s book, Doveglion: Collected Poems(Penguin Classics, 2008).  A few more of his poems are online here.  And here’s a Youtube summary of Villa’s life and accomplishments.

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