20th C Poetics Rewritten

Kevin Carollo’s stunning review of Emilio Villa’s Selected Poetry in Rain Taxi (spring 2016)

“Hermetically dynamic, anciently postmodern, materially evanescent, marginally liminal, futuristically prehistoric, reclusively performative, vulgarly esoteric, erotically ascetic — and intensely, explosively, delightfully heteroglossic — this translation of the selected poetry of Emilio Villa relentlessly rewrites everything we think we know about twentieth-century poetics. To approach an understanding of Villa’s life work requires reimagining what translation is and how language means. His work, in turn, underscores the impossibility of completion, of a collected whole…

… Siracusa’s introduction to the life and work of this mercurial and sibylline master is excellent. And his deft, albeit necessarily “partial,” translations induce a curious effect, as if his translated Italian compels the English speaker to note the translated part of the heteroglossic, “original” whole.”

Purchase the spring 2016 issue of Rain Taxi to read the full review.

Lengthy sample of the Villa book available here

20th C Poetics Rewritten

Emilio Villa Review

Flavio Ermini, “Where Poetry Dwells — The Linguistic Substance of Chaos”

“Emilio Villa’s poetry reveals a movement toward an extremely remote past, prior to the constitution of forms. This backward movement — a reverse that closely resembles a resolute advancement — does not neglect the language of origins or the pre-verbal images of the unconscious. Villa’s poetry relies on inaudible words in order to go beyond what we call beginning. This becomes clear when reading The Selected Poetry of Emilio Villa. … The issue Villa poses with his poetics can be summarized in the following question: where will this persistent return to origins take us? The word closest to the beginning — that is, the word inherent in poetry’s thought — demonstrates that we are made up of gestures and events based on Eden’s undifferentiated state. The poem “Words” shows this, proving that the essence of origins escapes the cognitive investigations of science; it challenges etymologies. Villa is unequivocal when he demonstrates that the original language is accessible only up to a certain point. Then — going even further back in time — one must deal with the a-temporality of chaos. We have always thought of the beginning as a transition from chaos to form. Yet Villa goes beyond this concept.” 

Read the full review in: EQUIPèCO no. 41, Anno XI (Autunno 2014)



Emilio Villa Review

Emilio Villa, nineteen-fifty3 rally

Featured in the new issue of Asymptote, “nineteen-fifty3 rally,” an excerpt from our forthcoming bilingual edition of Emilio Villa’s poems.

Emilio Villa (1914-2003) was a poet, visual artist, translator, critic, and Bible scholar. His poems encompass modern and ancient languages, including Milanese, Italian, French, English, Latin, Greek, Sumerian, and Akkadian.

Fundamental to his formation were the years he spent in seminary school outside Milan and at the Istituto Biblico in Rome, where he specialized in Ancient Semitic Philology. Throughout his life, he worked on an a-confessional translation of the Hebrew Bible (which remains unpublished today), and wrote extensively on contemporary art and its relation to the visual texts left by prehistoric man. Villa’s preoccupation with the origin of language (verbal as well as non-verbal) is the common thread that runs through his diverse artistic and critical endeavors.

Our edition of Villa’s poetry is translated by Dominic Siracusa, who received for this text the Academy of American Poets’ Raiziss / de Palchi award for Modern Italian poetry in translation. For more info on the award, Siracusa, and Villa, visit this page of the American Academy of Poets:


To read Villa’s poem (in either the original Italian or the English translation): 


Emilio Villa, nineteen-fifty3 rally

Against a culture of stupefaction

Against a narcotic culture whose primary desire is stupefaction

Andrea Scrima talks to Rainer J. Hanshe, founder of Contra Mundum Press

The Brooklyn Rail, Dec/Jan 2012-13

“Often, typically before disasters or in the midst of excruciating crises, many artists believe or feel that their work is meaningless and without value. Who is an artist before a surgeon or scientist? But the fact that tyrants and political regimes of every age have been threatened by art again and again, condemned it as degenerate or poisonous, and have silenced, brutalized, or murdered artists because of their work (and it is happening in our own time) only serves to illustrate how significant art is, that it is our one greatest power — the unique power of the individual, the singular force of the marginalized, and therefore, a political force. I would even go so far as to say that the ‘enemy’ of art experiences it more acutely than its devotee or acolyte, for the latter is generally too ‘pious’ and adoring, whereas art’s ‘enemy’ suffers its transformative threat more, is even endangered by it, hence their terror. It is the Platonic fear of art’s power over the ‘soul.’ And the fear of the destruction of the polis, but destruction only leads to new creations, to mutations that take us into new territory. What we have here is something inordinately potent — art is a life force, the vital breath that sustains us in the midst of our most excruciating trials. It is the powerless individual’s animating energy.”

Read the full interview here: against a culture of stupefaction.

Against a culture of stupefaction