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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.

What's New

Emilio Villa
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 that between flesh and bone there's something 
that turns a girl either hot or cold, who has eyes
like a countryside plowed by war, outside the city walls;

what's new is that few plants continue to grow;
and hands ruined by lesions and soot
light the cast-iron stoves, there is no gas;

is that the universal substance trembles, and our heart
not out of pride, nor power, but it seems good, and a sound 
of water ways trembles, water ways and train tracks:

the wind has left furrows of rain and greasy stains
on the plaster of facades fifteen meters wide, and 
furrows, that is wrinkles, in the old folks' polished square;

windows are a seed among headlights: and I 
sow breath and great goodtime, and you
walk up and down the main streets of town;

and I make ragged comparisons, and you carry
the stingy and melancholy beauty within the red shade
of still being beautiful, a girl like a countryside; 

and I know how to give forgotten compliments, and you move on;
and you think that one needs to watch what is needed,
and I think about shivering animals that will once again

piss close to the air like they used to; and you
make me a musical list of clothes to dry
in the generous and hapless air of our camporella.

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

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

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-
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