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About this poet

Born in Affori, Italy on September 21, 1914, Emilio Villa spent most of his life in Rome.

Villa's numerous collections of poetry include Adolescenza (La Vigna Editrice, 1934), Oramai (Chart Tiberino Institute, 1947), E ma dopo (Argo, 1950), 17 variazioni su temi proposti per una pura ideologia fonetica (Origin, 1955), Le mûra di t, éb, é (Multimedia Gallery, 1981), and 12 Sibyllae (Castelvetro Piacentino, 1995), among others.

His many translations include a prose rendition of Homer's Odyssey (1964) as well as selections from The Bible. He also translated from Sumerian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and numerous dead languages.

Villa's interest in philology informed his work heavily, and he preferred to write in a dialect of Milan rather than in what he thought of as the problematically academic "Ytaglya" of the post-war period. He also commonly inserted ancient Greek, Provençal, French, and many other languages into his poems to create a complicated network informed by his studies.

In 1950, Villa moved to São Paulo where he fell in with the Brazilian concrete poets Haroldo and Augusto de Campos. Those involved with the "Noigandres" group were strongly influenced by writers such as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and the visual poetry of Guillaume Apollinaire—all of which had a strong effect on his own writing.

Villa collaborated with a number of writers and artists in Italy and abroad, including Alberto Burri, Marcel Duchamp, as well as William Burroughs. He also had a strong influence on the next generation of neoavanguardia Italian writers—including those involved in Group 63, such as Umberto Eco and Adriano Spatola.

He died in Rietti, Italy in 2003.

1941 Piece

Emilio Villa
It could be
that on any given
day air would travel
half-heartedly through the air,

maybe, but if Lake Garda fails to recover in time
all the dust eaten by cyclists in meaningless races,
and kilometers that don't count, good for nothing,

maybe, as long as the ozone and the horizontal rain
speak to traffic cops with nickeled stands of poplar 
about ideal jubilees, communism fresh as a rose

and then we would feel 
as if in our chests mangled by spears,
thoughtful devotions, affections, vanities,
our dioceses were to drown one by one
little by little, and inside the other 
ephemeral vase of air, shipwrecked people
were to surface
with a brotherly laugh, but without
the body dense as a body or as any thing

and as long as the dodging capon,
trapped on the edge of the fog or within
autumn's violet stubble, failed to die
heroically wounded  by that pocket knife thrown 
by chance, stuck in his shins until blood is spilled; or

as long as the train's smell slithers to checkpoints
and realizes in the end that the world's nights
and the lowing from the stalls of Brianza, and the breath

of foreign fodder, and the air filled
with a stew of local beef, and the change
of musical coins across the zinc counter, will touch
the firmament with frosted hands: and then

some agate marbles concealed in the panic snore
of those poplars will serve as lamps or blinds 

and it's not like the heavens
are a sound, bottomless investment, or a mine
devoid of fatherland and feeling

therefore, let the troops hurry like shades with coats
on the borders rubbing mile after mile,
year after year; and more so the hidden anguish of breaths
grows here in the fatherland and furthermore freezes
in this chaos, and here the fish seeps out,
like mandatory nostalgia for the northern star, and 
the train's snake-like turns, stops, the long
detours through the countryside, through the nocturnal
paint of drizzling rain and murk

thus, drunk with weakness facing the earthly dream
where the stones of Europe mature, where stately
gardens float in the naviglio of peace,
nations devised in the dreams of strange
prime ministers with rocks in their heads

drunk with emotion the last seafarer or engineer
or fresh water sailor, or athlete at the track,
forgotten the silvery shimmer of canals and verdure,
the murmur of pewter silverware washed
in doorways opening onto towpaths 
in that slow after-supper idleness, let him go
beyond the soul

and then again, beyond the soul everything is a mirror
of celestial Catholic confusion, nor do we want to
believe in our bodies too much, this mirror, enough,
for the time being, with this annoying light

yet meanwhile the rest of us exist, both one and the other,
fearfully, reverentially, and then,
rising from the busy welfare rolls 
we pass, like sickly clouds, toward the fine liquor 
of the Atlantic, at the county's end,
without the noise of borders or hallways: that's where

everything will be vague and flawless, everything
in common; there, not a single strip of twilight
ever appears stronger than the night

electric, fish-like.

Today's poem is copyright © 2011 by Emilio Villa and Dominic Siracusa. Used with permission.

Today's poem is copyright © 2011 by Emilio Villa and Dominic Siracusa. Used with permission.

Emilio Villa

Emilio Villa

Villa had a strong influence on the next generation of neoavanguardia Italian writers—including those involved in Group 63

by this poet

poem
poetry is evanescence

poetry is life sentence, release
	on words, liberté sur parole

poetry is a blind guide to an ancient
	enigma, to an inaccessible
	secret

poetry is an argument
	dynamic and jarring

poetry is a rag tag cos-
	mology we can 
	raise and wave, 
	it's a small (abregée) cos-
poem
What's new is that one can no longer keep
the eyelids of swept away young men open
with sharpened toothpicks, they're no longer alive:

what's new is the whitish eyes of Milanese
men upon the wires of trolleys, trams and poles;
don't tell me it's sad to go on looking sadly in each other's eyes!

what's new is