The Coffee Table

Jose Garcia Villa
    Analysis on Selected Poems

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The Country That Is My Country (1934)

The country that is my country

Is not of this hemisphere, nor of any
Other: is neither west nor east:
Nor is it on the north or south:

          I reject the littleness of the compass.

  Is not the Philippines:
Nor America: nor Spain nor Hungary:
Nor is it any other country.

                             I disclaim
Nations, tribes, peoples, flags:
I disclaim the Filipino,
The American, the Yugoslavian,
The Swede—all separations,
Divisions, distinctions.
                             I disclaim
The countryman, the patriot,
The talker of countries.

          I claim the Fellowman:
          The Human Being: the Man

          Only thus do I claim you:
          Only thus can I belong to you:
          And only thus can you belong to me.

Go from me, you patriots:
Go from me who would have me babble
Of love for my nation!

          I have no such love:

          I am the patriot of no country:
          I patriotise no nation--
          I patriotise Man, the Human Being.

The country that is my country
Is in no geography:
Is in no mouth:

          Is in the heart.

The country that is my country

            Is Earth: its men.
          Is Sky: the love within their hearts.
          Is the Sky beyond the Sky: the One.

In this poem, the speaker claims the existence of the place where he truly belongs in – it is not the country he was physically born in, but rather that of a place that is being idealized as “the One.” The lines wherein the speaker disclaims thrice worldly labels and proofs of a person’s connection and allegiance with a certain geographical place, he shuns away things which cause division instead of unity among people all over the world. Perhaps the speaker’s idea of unity is not that which is founded on “nations,” “tribes,” “peoples,” “flags,” and nationalities, and the patriotism of the countryman. Unity is founded instead on Man himself – I claim the Fellowman: The Human Being: the Man. And when this understanding is achieved, only then can a person fully accept the existence of his “real” country in which he is a part of – Only thus do I claim you:/Only thus can I belong to you:/ And only thus can you belong to me – an equal and mutual agreement in which the ideal country is fulfilled through the basic understanding of what should comprise a country. Towards the end of the poem, the speaker speaks a tone of a transcendental declaration that the Earth, the Sky, and that which is beyond the Sky are where this country may be found, as one. This is not interpreted in a literal sense, but rather (and perhaps) it is a metaphor that connotes the height of realizing the country that is the speaker’s country – everything and everyone has to be united, Man has to be united with oneself.

On the other hand, the form itself contributes to the interpretation which I have concluded above. Notice the way Villa separates and indents the stanzas and lines, respectively, and also the italicized lines. After one reads the poem, there is this feeling that one may get in which the thoughts are as free as the lines themselves. Regarding the italicization of certain lines, Villa probably intended them to be thoughts that run along while the speaker is formally stating his thoughts and vision about the country that is his country.

Be Beautiful, Noble, Like The Antique Ant (1941)

Be beautiful, noble, like the antique ant,
Who bore the storms as he bore the sun,
Wearing neither gown nor helmet,
Though he was archbishop and soldier:
Wore only his own flesh.

Salute characters with gracious dignity:
Though what these are is left to
Your own terms. Exact: the universe is
Not so small but these will be found
Somewhere. Exact: they will be found.

Speak with great moderation: but think
With great fierceness, burning passion:
Though what the ant though
No annals reveal, nor his descendants
Break the seal.

Trace the traclessness of the ant,
Every ant has reached this perfection.
As he comes, so he goes,
Flowing as water flows,
Essential but secret like a rose.

The speaker here obviously does not belittle the ant. In fact, his way of personifying the ant was as if it was human, and was going through human-like situations though its day-to-day activities are different from that of a real human’s. However, an insight can be seen in the ant’s ways in relation to Villa’s message about man. Be beautiful, noble, like the antique ant, says the first line of the poem, because, as can be explained by the succeeding lines, we have the ability to traverse the adversities of life like the ant that faces them in its own way. 

When,I,Was,No,Bigger,Than,A,Huge (1948)

When,I,was,no,bigger,than,a,huge,
Star,in,my,self,I,began,to,write
                   My,
                 Theology,
              Of,rose,and,

Tiger,till,I,burned,with,their,
Pure,and,Rage. Then,was,I,wrath--
                   Ful,
               And,most,
               Gentle:most,

Dark,yet,most,Lit:in,me,an,
Eye,there,grew:springing,Vision,
                   Its,
                 Gold,and,
             Its,wars. Then,

I,knew,the,Lord,was,not,my,Creator!
—Not,He,the,Unbegotten—but,I,saw,
                   The,
                  Creator,
               Was,I,—and,

I,began,to,Die,and,I,began,to,Grow.

With its eye-catching form, Villa’s When,I,Was,No,Bigger,Than,A,Huge  is a self-expression piece in which the speaker acquires an epiphany as evident in the fourth stanza. He rejects his belief of the Divine Creator, and recognizes himself instead with such title. It is in this realization of the speaker that the rather distracting form of the poem is understood—because he is the “creator,” he is entitled to do whatever he wants, hence the writing of a poem in which every word is separated with commas instead of spaces. Of course, this must be Villa’s doing since it was he who wrote the poem, trying to capture the speaker’s way of thinking. The enjambments may also attest to this.



~desbraceros
09.July.2011




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