[SHC World Poetry Month] “First, A Poem Must Be Magical” by Jose Garcia Villa

Jose Garcia Villa (1908–1997). Photo credits: Colorado State University

SHC is at one with the world in celebrating World Poetry Month for the entire April! As a global form of literature, poetry is an expression of individual and collective identity, culture, experience, and heritage. Throughout the month, we will feature poetry recited by our residents from their respective countries and cities and in their native language. Our residents have also included a short description and explanation of the poems they selected below. We hope to share with you our diverse heritage, beauty, and wisdom through poetry.

Considered as one of the finest contemporary Filipino poets, Jose Garcia Villa (1908–1997) was awarded the National Artist of the Philippines for literature. Although born in Manila, Villa lived most of his life as a Filipino exile in New York. A scholar contends that Villa is a “universal” writer whose mastery of the English language is impressive, making him a truly transnational figure.

The poem talks about how poems should be: melodic to the ear, captivating to the senses, and crisp without being extra. A poem is gentle yet strong enough to pierce through the soul. It speaks clearly without the need to shout. The couplet, in the end, is an instruction of how the poem must elevate from its materiality into divinity. Hence, a good poem comes alive and continues to speak to generations after it has been written.

“First, A Poem Must Be Magical”

by Jose Garcia Villa (The Philippines)

First, a poem must be magical,

Then musical as a sea-gull.

It must be a brightness moving

And hold secret a bird’s flowering.

It must be slender as a bell,

And it must hold fire as well.

It must have the wisdom of bows

And it must kneel like a rose.

It must be able to hear

The luminance of dove and deer.

It must be able to hide

What it seeks, like a bride.

And overall I would like to hover

God, smiling from the poem’s cover.


Recited by: Nicolo Ludovice

Produced by: Editorial Team of the SHC Media Club, Nicolo Ludovice, Sean Suntoso, Aurell Sulaiman, Chong Sze Teng

A place dedicated to writers of Shun Hing College (HKU) — Hong Kong. https://www.shunhingcollege.hku.hk/