José Garcia Villa was born in Manila on August 5, 1908 (many other years of birth have been suggested, but in an interview with Nick Carbó, Villa gives 1908 as the year of his birth [Anchored Angel 223]). After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the University of the Philippines in medicine, conforming to the wish of his father who used to be a doctor in the revolutionary army of Emilio Aguinaldo. More interested in painting and writing than in his studies, Villa, along with friends, founded the UP Writers Club. In 1929, he published a series of erotic poems, “Man Songs, ” for which he was suspended from the university and fined for obscenity by the Manila Court of First Instance. The same year, his “Mir-i-Nisa” was judged best short story in a contest sponsored by the Philippines Free Press. With the money he won, he relocated to the United States and enrolled at the University of New Mexico.
In 1933, Villa published a collection of twenty-one short stories entitled Footnote to Youth: Tales of the Philippines and Others and moved to New York. Following the publication of his first book, Villa decided to dedicate himself entirely to poetry. After publishing two collections of poems in the Philippines, his first volume of poetry to appear in the United States, Have Come, Am Here (1942), won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award and was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. His fourth collection of poetry, Volume Two (1949), was not received with as much praise as his “comma poems” (a comma with no surrounding spaces linked every word in the poems) and was regarded by many as typographical games. Employed as associate editor at New Directions Books between 1949 and 1951 and as instructor at City College of New York between 1952 and 1960, Villa published another selection of