In his prize-winning poetry collection Reliquaria, R. A. Villanueva embraces liminal, in-between spaces in considering an ever-evolving Filipino American identity. Languages and cultures collide; mythologies and faiths echo and resound. Part haunting, part prayer, part prophecy, these poems resonate with the voices of the dead and those who remember them. In this remarkable book, we enter the vessel of memory, the vessel of the body. The dead act as witness, the living as chimera, and we learn that whatever the state of the body, this much rings true: every ode is an elegy; each elegy is always an ode.
R. A. Villanueva was born in New Jersey and lives in Brooklyn. His honors include the 2013 Ninth Letter Literary Award for poetry and fellowships from Kundiman and the Asian American Literary Review. His writing has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. A founding editor of Tongue: A Journal of Writing & Art, he teaches at New York University.
“The texture of R. A. Villanueva’s words stay in the mouth, shards of what is sacred, still is sacred: linguistic memento mori, if you will, that preserve and keep alive. Take your time with this glorious collection. Breathe in: ‘black eggs,’ ‘pomade,’ ‘concertina wire,’ ‘wreathed in gauze,’ and ‘Nakalimutan mo na ako. You have already forgotten me.’ I dare say you will not forget these remains that Villanueva has saved for us.”—Kimiko Hahn, author of Toxic Flora
“These vivid and deeply lived poems question ‘every delicate gift we have thrown away.’ Villanueva searches the world for the divine and—gorgeous poem by poem—he finds it.”—Idra Novey, author of Exit, Civilian
“R. A. Villanueva reminds us that poetry is a space haunted by history, so we try ‘to name ghosts, to face them, dark as they are.’ He musters an impressive courage to take up the task. And we’re rewarded not just by Villanueva’s immense thrill for language but by his ability to fuse the body’s fact with the body’s mystery. This is a terrific debut.”—Patrick Rosal, author of Boneshepherds