The first international poetry festival of Malta, involving an Italian, a Spanish, a Croatian and three Maltese poets, ended at St James' Cavalier, in Valletta yesterday evening.

Named Vers, the festival was held over three evenings during which Victor Fenech, Maria Grech Ganado, Adrian Grima, Tonko Maroevic, Vinyet Panyella and Paola Turroni read their pieces in front of an audience of about 50 people.

"The works were read out in the poet's respective native languages, where the audience could appreciate the sound and rhythm of the languages even if they did not understand. A reading of the poems translated into English took place after," Vers coordinator Immanuel Mifsud said.

Himself a poet, Mr Mifsud raised questions on the value of poetry in "today's society" as he read out a memorandum that the participants presented to the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts yesterday afternoon.

Poets struggled to make their voice heard in a society where different realities established different worlds, where the principal objective of most initiatives was consumerism and where poetry was deemed to be "dead and futile".

But besides being useful and important for them personally, the poets said their work had a collective value, especially when it was read out and "shared" with an audience as had happened during the festival.

The poets said they encouraged other such initiatives, including twinning poetry to other art forms, translating works into different languages and encouraging independent publications that did not follow mainstream publishing.

Arts council chairman Joe Friggieri said there were many young Maltese who wrote verse even though they had never really got any exposure. "These initiatives should encourage them to come forth and make their voices heard," Prof. Friggieri said.

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