Outstanding poet and essayist, a member of the 1930s Generation. He inherited his love for poetry from his father, modernist poet Virgilio Dávila. His verses were intimist in nature and were characterized by neo-romantic elements.
José Antonio Dávila was born in Bayamón, the son of poet and politician Virgilio Dávila, and began his studies in that town. He completed his secondary studies in Santurce and began his university studies at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico. Later, he moved to the United States and in 1924 he completed his studies in medicine at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He continued his studies in Florida and, two years later, completed a specialization in urology.
In 1927, Dávila became ill with tuberculosis and went to the Saranac Lake Hospital in New York. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1930 along with his wife, Alma Blake, and dedicated himself to practicing medicine for several years. However, his fame comes from in his poetry and essays.
As for his prose work, he published many articles on literary and cultural topics in various periodicals, among which were the Revista del Ateneo Puertorriqueño, El Imparcial, Alma Latina, El Mundo and Puerto Rico Ilustrado.
Dávila also translated the work of many of his favorite authors. He translated the verses of Shakespeare, Lord Byron, John Milton, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman, among other authors, from English to Spanish. He translated Puerto Rican works by the authors Clara Lair, Luis Llorens Torres, Evaristo Ribera Chevremont and his father, Virgilio Dávila, from Spanish to English.
His early poetry displayed clearly modernistic characteristics, following the steps of his father. Over time, under the influence of the 1930s literary generation, Dávila found his own voice. Later, his work displayed an intimist character in the neo-romantic vein, but still maintained the influences of classic Spanish authors and English poets such as Lord Byron and John Keats.
In 1940, he published his first book of poems, titled Vendimia, in which he collected poems that had been written since 1917. The work contained elements of modernism (costumbrismo themes, formal characteristics) and avant-garde (preference for simple verse, neo-romanticism). Among the poems in this work are “Apóstrofe al verde”, “Al partir” and “Para Isolda”. This book of poems won an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
The rest of Dávila work was published posthumously. In 1941, Almacén de baratijas, a compilation of children’s poems dedicated to his niece, was published. A biography of Bayamón composer and musician Mariano Feliú Balseiro, written by Dávila, appeared the same year. Motivos de Tristán, published in 1957, collected a series of sonnets that he wrote between 1930 and 1934. Finally, in 1964, Poemas was published.
José Antonio Dávila died prematurely from tuberculosis on December 4, 1941, in his home town of Bayamón.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
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