Introductions to Maltese poetry by:

Bernard Micallef

Adrian Grima


Poems by Maria Grech Ganado


Malta feature


Other features in this issue

Contemporay Writing Scene in Malta

Maria Grech Ganado

By Maria Grech Ganado

      I think that if we look at the Maltese scene now, we can state with conviction that never has there been so much literary ferment in the Maltese islands since the sixties. The sixties had broken with the themes and influence of the first wave of national, religious and sentimental love which dogged the first appearance of poetry in the Maltese language — and had replaced it with a political and existential wave, inspired by the rest of Europe, which addressed the former themes from a confrontational perspective.

      There were exceptions in both waves, of course, but the major names which have lived on or been revived are those of Dun Karm Psaila (the national poet), Ruzar Briffa, George Pisani, Anton Buttigieg, Mary Meilaq, Marjanu Vella — and, for the second wave, Oliver Friggieri, Joe Friggieri, Mario Azzopardi, Daniel Massa, Doreen Micallef, Victor Fenech and Achille Mizzi.

      Many of these last named don't write anymore — or have moved to a different form of artistic expression and there are writers, like Gorg Borg, who still writes of traditional themes, but with a freshness and lyrical simplicity that cannot help but charm. However, there is a growing number of young Maltese who have already made a name for themselves, despite the fact that it is extremely difficult for new writers to have prose published, and, till last year, virtually impossible when they write poetry.

      The best known of the new wave is, I believe, Immanuel Mifsud, who at the age of 39 has published many books of both prose and poetry, has found a publisher in both, has been translated into English by the Next Generation British poet, Maurice Riordan, and has also found translators in many other countries (eg Britain, France, Italy, Spain. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, etc) He has also been featured in Le Monde's Courriere Internationelle and been interviewed by L'Express and RAI Uno. (see www.immanuelmifsud.com). Apart from Immanuel Mifsud, Adrian Grima and I, Simone Inguanez also found a publisher for her first collection, Ftit Mara, Ftit Tifla (Part Woman, Part Girl) in 2005. Her work is highly idiosyncratic, especially in her use of rhythm and tone. Her early work is mainly an exploration of her intense inner self, minutely analysing its interaction with what or whom she experiences. Her new work seems to be directed outward, focusing more on what she encounters and finding patterns in it which often border on the metaphysical. In both cases, her syntax surprises with its experimental musicality and her tone can just as suddenly switch pitch. The condensation achieved through this approach to words is skilfully controlled by a harmonious blending which I find both pleasing and delightful but extremely difficult to translate.

      Most of the other contemporary writers who are best known, belong to the dynamic group 'Inizjamed' (www.inizjamed.org), which, in partnership with international literary groups, holds symposia, translation workshops, exchange projects, readings, etc. Its activities encourage new writers to improve and eventually publish, and are concerned with global, national and personal issues in a universal context — in line with the rest of the world. As with the rest of the world, we win international prizes too. Our literary projects also combine literature with other genres of art — music, painting, installations, etc. with themes which range from the personal to the social, from the political to the philosophical. Above all, Maltese writers have broken with the tyranny of traditional techniques to experiment with the language in new, exciting and enriching ways. The influence of both the modernist and post-modernist movements are keenly felt even where they cannot be pin-pointed or identified.

Talk given in Lithuania (Druskininkai Poetic Fall - 2006)