Theory Of Poetry - Purchase Book

“Poetry is” now IS (a published book)


I am pleased to announce that this book was on September 1, 2015 released by its publisher, Ateneo de Manila Press, and now is available for purchase. Details of purchasing the book are set forth on the Purchasing The Book page below.

Villa characterized his philosophy of poetry as the only “organized and structured theory of poetry.” The Mission page below, published in 2012, invited anyone who contested that claim “to come forward publicly and take issue with the claim,” offering to give “a forum for doing so.” Notwithstanding the passage of more than three years, no one has accepted that challenge. Nor in the interim have we found any evidence suggesting that the claim is untrue.

Now that the book has been published, what are persons knowledgeable about poetry and poetics saying about it?  One full-fledged review of the book has already been published.  The author, James Sale, an English poet and expert on motivation, has been writing poems for over 40 years and has published seven collections of his poems.  Sale’s review was published on November 6, 2015 on the website of the Society of Classical Poets and can be accessed in full by clicking on this link:, and then clicking on “Book Review: ‘Poetry is’ by José Garcia Villa.” 

In brief, Sale began his review by stating:  “I finished reading ‘Poetry is: Jose Garcia Villa’s Philosophy of Poetry’ . . ., which incidentally is one of, if not, the best book about writing poetry that I have ever read (and I have read a lot) . . . .”  Sale moves to a discussion of free verse, which he concludes has “nothing to do with verse or poetry at all,” and states that writers of free verse “over the last fifty years have a created consensus that have driven out real poetry . . . .”  Sale adds:  “And that’s where Villa’s brilliant book comes in; indeed, addresses at the end of the book, exactly this tragedy.”

Sale credits Villa with brilliantly observing:  “when you begin a poem with a meaning in mind, that meaning – instead of building the poem up – undermines it, pulls it down and it has a birth defect,” praising that as “a superb image of all free verse, which by its nature has to begin with meaning, since it cannot possibly, by definition, begin with form as it has none, that it has a birth defect.”

Sale then moves on to a consideration of  “some of the wonders of Villa’s book, which I [Sale] strongly recommend every lover of poetry to buy and read, although I have to say that Villa is austere in his thinking and severe in his strictures, which will not be to everyone’s taste.  But his arguments are so powerful, and his thinking so potent concerning the process of writing poetry that I genuinely do believe that all thinking practitioners of the art should consider his ideas.”  Sale’s review proceeds to discuss some of Villa’s “powerful arguments.”  However, as brief summation will not do them justice, readers are encouraged to read the entire review.

Two other persons very knowledgeable about poetry and poetics reviewed “Poetry is” in advance of its publication.   One of them is Gémino H. Abad, Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines in its Department of English and Comparative Literature, as well as being a poet and literary critic with many honors and awards to his name.  Abad’s observations on the book in their entirety were:

In Robert L. King’s Poetry is, we have at last, for everyone who
    aspire to aesthetic experience in the reading and writing of poetry,
    a superb distillation of José Garcia Villa’s own poetics or
    “philosophy of poetry” – what poetry is, how it is wrought, and
    what poetry does; not prescriptive rules but the principles of fine
    art; not metrics, nor fixed arbitrary forms, nor free verse, nor
    imagery, for poetry is above all language, music, and form, the
    precise art of letters in terms of its own medium.  Poetry finds
    its own form, the structure arising from the poet’s control of
    language; the words chosen for their sound and rhythm to the
    poet’s inner ear give rise to the imagery; the form is the created
    work, the content its raw material.  For poetry creates its own
    history, here at last is the art of poetry for our own time.

John Felstiner, Professor Emeritus in the English Department of Stanford University, was consulted by the book’s Editor and suggested revisions of the manuscript of the book before it was published.  Of the finished product, he wrote:

    As I’ve learned clearly, deeply, Robert King knows José
    Garcia Villa’s vital news:  Poetry offers many of us
    heightened language plus its details that open truths.
    Plainly, Villa says poems must have formal excellence,
    be lyrical, and not be prose.  What’s more, close sense
    of an Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost lyric can open
    fresh life itself.

"Poetry is" is now available for purchase and is a beacon of light illuminating the path to redemption in terms of rejuvenating the art of lyric poetry of formal excellence and restoring it to its rightful place at the top of the pantheon of American literature.