I find poetry is everywhere. In the nearly empty streets, on the crowded 5 pm bus, in the murmurs of the elderly couple sitting on the bench sipping coffee from a thermos flask, and also in a loud telephone ring in a hotel reception area, or even in the absence of it. I’m thinking about poetry or composing it (even without pen and paper) almost all the time. But what is poetry after all? And why all this obsession with it?
Throughout the ages, the definition of poetry has varied greatly according to socio-political context, author, style and the artistic climate of the day, and it is very probable that one will not find any common string threading all these differences and nuances together, except perhaps the diverse applications of metaphor. Some critics go to the extent of arguing that metaphor is the defining characteristic of poetry, while others give it slightly less importance but nonetheless believe it is one of the most central features of poetry.
In any case, for me poetry is all about metaphors and connections. When I am composing a poem, the early stages involve developing literary connections which attempt to build bridges between different parts of our world, be them physical or conceptual. Thus, for example, I ask myself how courage is relates to a lion, to speaking up on issues that concern you, or maybe even taking a bath. Some of these connections may seem most awkward, like the last one here, but placing it in the specific context of your personal thoughts leads to surprising insights and connections never made before, which arouse curiosity, reflection and sometimes even elation.
The idea behind my first Maltese poetry collection, ‘Ħlief Memorji u Dellijiet’ (‘But Memories and Shadows’), which has just been published by Klabb Kotba Maltin was to introduce, and maybe at times provoke readers to make such connections beyond our usual comfort zone of thought. I also believe the main two themes of this work are human relations and mental health awareness.
An immediate example of such a connection is the poem ‘MATEMATIKA’ (‘MATHEMATICS’). In this poem, there seems to be some link, as strange and remote as it may be, between mathematical discovery and a human relationship. Perhaps this connection may seem more evident if one where to think of Mathematics not merely as a problem-solution exercise but rather as a conversation with a problem to be solved which reveals itself gradually as if in a discussion between two people, making mathematical discovery seem more of a conversation rather than a one-sided task of abstract thought.
These angular, random, chaotic and often provocative mental connections, which we can call metaphors, are the drive behind my passion for poetry. The typical Maltese student often thinks of poetry as compulsory literature one must study to pass exams. But poetry is so much more than that! It opens doors to wider horizons of thought, gives joy and pleasure, and can sometimes maybe even teach.
Photo Credit: Klabb Kotba Maltin.