Bil-Boqxiex, the second poetry collection penned by Louis Briffa, follows Bil-Varloppa. In both books, it seems he likens the honing of his writing skills to the refining of wood in carpentry, for both titles depict old tools used to smoothen wood in furniture making.
This collection is a 272-page formidable product of richly-worded and intense poems made up of stanzas of various length full of profound thoughts and a clever choice of singular diction that expresses the feelings he endured or enjoyed during the calm and not-so-calm waters he has waded in throughout his life.
This poetry collection is introduced to us through a very ably undertaken extensive critical essay by Charles Briffa and ends with an appreciative and well wrought out essay by Tarcisio Zarb, both well-known erudites in the literary scene.
Briffa chose to divide the collection into nine parts, each demonstrating the various phases in the poet’s life. The collection is dominated by several longish poems split into numerated parts of various lengths as though meant to lead us into the different realms the poet roamed or is roaming in his power of the dreamer he is, who, like a butterfly, flits from one thought to the next, from one scene of poetic panorama to the other while, at the same time, remaining loyal to the theme he is addressing.
Also predominant are little stanzas written in italics in the shape of a few lines at the start of some of the poems that serve to give us an indication of the poem’s theme and of the style in which the poem will be executed. Very often, these poems are dedicated to someone, be it a fellow poet or someone else who, one way or another, left an impression on him.
To understand fully and reap the best benefits of a collection, you first have to learn a few things about the poet because this gives you a better insight into his character, his forma mentis and how he is likely to react to various experiences. Thus, you may be able to form a whole picture nearer to truth of experience than to open speculation.
I can comfortably state that Briffa had the fortune (and not misfortune) of finding himself in stretches of unhappy situations.
His heart bled, feeling acute pain and abandonment, which was, in turn, followed by happiness.
He who has never felt sidelined, who has never cried cannot then appreciate happiness as much as he who experienced and overcame it. So trials and tribulations have enabled him to assess and compare past and present and to grab at new beginnings when presented to him by destiny.
His youth and internal strength turned the blows life dealt him into fresh opportunities that, all together, have moulded him into the person he is today: extrovert, hopeful, fulfilled – mature fermented wine of the best kind, emerging as a strong poet able to eke out lyrics from the simplest thought or the commonest object.
Although totally different in the style and length of their poems, he brings to my mind Francis Ponge whose poems were also about the commonest of objects.
Clearly an erudite, affluent Briffa is the creator of rich and elegant verse worthy of a young laureate. His poems are flowing, at the same time knotting one thought to another in a manner totally harmonious. He gives one the impression of an unhurried poet who stops to think in order to obtain the fitting word so that his lines, while weighty with metaphor, are rendered mellifluous. Each word is cleverly weaved and not one is redundant or irrelevant.
He deliberates with himself upon the importance his “swan”, as he calls his love, occupies in his life as a human and as a poet and is convinced he would be nothing without her as she is his main inspiration.
I found it very difficult to select a ‘best’ poem. Each one carries its thrill, delivers a valid message and has its particularity, its endearment, but Għassiesa tal-fantażmi, in the section titled Versi tad-dissidenza, kept begging me to read it over and over again.
It is a very harsh poem, critical of one and many a nation and race and fittingly dedicated to Walid Nabhan who knows a thing or two about the Middle East, himself originating from the area. It speaks about the hardships suffered by the people of the Middle East. Pain, hurt, revenge but also hope are all boldly intertwined in its lines that ably portray the crude reality we have come to recognise today.
Fi ħżiemna s-sejf. Ma qaddna d-dinamite shows this crude reality in two very brief sentences that depict the continuous carriage of weapons they have to adhere to.
The poet’s disillusionment because of the lack of peace, fraternity and solidarity is entrenched in a double line which in plain words state that the nations pretend to show concern but in reality do nothing to alleviate the eastern people’s misery. He ironically says that these nations will turn to stone should they give them a merciful glance:
This and much more is what Bil-Boqxiex is all about. With this new feather in his cap, Briffa can be considered as one of the best contemporary poets on the island.
Ode to Gozo’s heritage
Raymond Caruana, of Victoria, has been writing poetry for the last three decades but it was only of late he published his first anthology – Il-ħajja bħall-fjuri – collecting into one volume 61 of his best poems.
Caruana seems to feel secure in limiting himself to the use of the eight- and seven-syllable lines repeating themselves to create a strophe. He is also traditional in his choice of subjects; his poems are inspired either by the islands’ history or by religion themes. Most are addressed to patron saints revered in Maltese towns and villages.
Hailing from Gozo’s capital, it is to be expected that a couple of his poems are inspired by the military figure of St George though the Virgin Mary features too.
His poems reflect a solid Christian upbringing within the Catholic tradition.
The wild side
There is wildlife that both residents and tourists are likely to encounter but some shy or reclusive creatures are normally difficult to see.
Malta’s Top 10 is a guide that seeks to reveal the secrets of the natural world on the Maltese islands. It is the work of local and international authors Geoffrey Saliba, Helen Raine, Andrè Raine and Jason Raine.
Photographs donated by some of Malta’s finest wildlife photographers help readers identify the species they encounter.
Each chapter explores a different group of species and the detailed information promises to enthrall many. Did you know there is a snail that fires love darts? And what about the insect that can move faster than the human eye can see, with the female species eating the male after copulation?
Material on new books can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and a copy of the publication sent by mail or delivered to the office of the Times of Malta in Mrieħel. Book reviews will be carried at the discretion of this newspaper, in which case two copies of the publication would need to be submitted.
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