Page 24


ay otra voz, poems. 1972, ColecciOn Mensaje. Chicanos: Antologia histOrica v literaria. 1980, Fondo de Cultura Economica. Shaking Off The Dark. 1984, Arte Publico; Bilingual Press, 1998. 1985, Fondo de Cultura. Economica. Cronica de MiS anos peores. 1987, Lalo Press. Cronica de mis aiios peores / Chronicle Of My Worst Years University Press. Tres poems de posguerra: Celaya. Gonzalez y Caballero Bonald. 1988, Tamesis Books. Scene From the Movie GIANT. 1993, Curbstone Press. Primera causa / First Cause Cross-Cultural Communications. BOOKS & THE CULTURE The Expansive Self The Poetry of Tino Villanueva BY JAMES HOGGARD would not want to live in a literary barrio,” Tino Villanueva said during a recent interview, and there’s little chance that he will. Widely recognized as one of the most important Chicano voices, Villanueva has the reputation of being demanding in his critical judgments yet generous with his attention; and his voice is increasingly known for being both cosmopolitan and democratic. Reginald Gibbons, former editor of TriQuarterly and an award-winning novelist and poet, recently wrote that Villanueva exhibits what W.E.B. Dubois called “double consciousness,” the deep knowledge of two different cultures in a society. “Tino has found a way,” Gibbons said, “to write of both worlds [Chicano and Anglo] that makes sense, I believe, to all readers, even those who might be isolated in one of those worlds or the other.” Martin Espada, poetry editor of the Massachusetts Review and an acclaimed poet himself, describes Villanueva as an important part of the vibrant Hispanic literary community that began flourishing in Boston during the Eighties. “He influenced an entire generation of Latinos,” Espada said. During that period Villanueva also began to publish an internationally focused literary magazine, Imagine, whose quality of presentation reflected Villanueva’s other considerable gift as a painter. A persistent theme among writers who have responded to Villanueva’s work is a recognition of his literary sophistication. Anne Marie Stock, in Bilingual Review, notes that Villanueva’s “insistence on identification-as-process rather than on identity-as-product” offers an alternative for “the binary oppositions” that critics often use when dealing with works associated with migrant culture. Considering the work from another perspective, Frederick R. Worth of Randolph-Macon College has written that Villanueva’s “entire career can be characterized as a conscious arming [of] himself with words for the purpose of salvation, of reclamation of self.” Espada reminds us, too, that Vil Tino Villanueva John Suiter, 1994 lanueva’s is “not an oral street poetry, or a poetry in danger of lapsing into rhetoric.” It’s not surprising, then, when one considers the range of sources reflecting on his work, that Villanueva has the reputation of being one of the few writers in the country who writes well, even brilliantly, in both Spanish and English. How did that happen? A lot of sophisticated people grow up in highly literate, multicultural environ ments wherein conversation about history, art, and aesthetics is a normal part of daily interchange. Villanueva didn’t. In fact, he didn’t start learning English, he said, until he began going to school; but even his school days demanded rapid and frequent changes of place and rough outdoor labor in all kinds of weather. Born in San Marcos in 1941, he was a part of a family of migrant farmworkers who were also strict Presbyterians: “no playing cowboys, marbles, or baseball on the Day of the Lord.” After graduating from high school, Villanueva worked in a furniture factory for four years, until he was drafted into the Army and posted to the Panama Canal Zone. A Panamanian friend introduced him to Spanish-language poetry, especially that of important nineteenth-century figures like Ruben Dario \(pioneer modernist of the lyrically political poet also known as the George over, Villanueva returned to San Marcos where he enrolled in Southwest Texas State University. Well into his twenties but just starting college, he began writing poems in Spanish and English determined, he said, to master both languages. Like the roads followed during the days of stoop labor in the fields, Villanueva’s THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23 MAY 12, 2000