Patrick Sammut Malta
Transmission of universal values throung poetical Magic
All men are equal. Man is also what he writes. And poetry is that magic which comes directly from his heart and soul. True poetry is universal. It is born in a particular place (space) and in a particular circumstance (time), but it is then transformed into something which is universal through what can be called poetical magic. What exactly this “poetic magic” is one cannot say. However, what one can say is that such an element can express that thing or state which unites all men – from whichever place or from whichever time they come – together. Such “poetic magic” depends on various other elements: there is the thematic level where the poet discusses themes or values which pertain to all humankind (such as peace, family, love, friendship, respect towards Mother Nature); there is also the stylistic level, where through the use of imagery and other poetical mechanisms the poet helps to transform his writing into poetry. Thus, this “poetic magic” travels through time and space, and is felt whatsoever language is used and whatever nationality of the poet. It may decrease in power when the original text is translated into a second language, but it still is felt thanks to the universality factor and also to the knowhow of the translator.
Rev. Dr. Amante Buontempo was born in 1920 and died in 2004. He was the founder of the Maltese Poets Association (founded in 1975), still in action today. Among his publications are Si vis pacem cane simper (1973), Wishful Thoughts (1975) and Rhythmical Reactions (1981). Great part of his poetry is social in nature. In fact Buontempo writes about the problems of modern society such as drugs, aids, abortion, corruption, terrorism, capital punishment, divorce, prostitution, famine, war, criminality, the differences between social classes and paedophilia. One of his poems is The language of my heart where he writes, “And saner are mad cows than many men:/ who, knowing the effects of Chernobyl,/ still keep their nuclear experiments”. InFamine or slavery he writes that “The world is in decay”. We’re soldiers of true peace is about war. Here Buontempo writes thus: “‘No War’ is not true Peace, but in the Arts,/ the best that come from pure and loving hearts!”. Again, in The language of my heart, he writes:
“I know not how to speak and how to write
if not in poetry,
sending some message to the world I know:
a message of true love and inward peace.”
Another contemporary poet from Malta is Marlene Saliba, born in 1949. Her publications are Time-Faring (1994) and Xbihat tal-Antenati/Ancestral Visions (2011), a bilingual poetry collection. Hers is a very spiritual and metaphysical poet. Saliba becomes one with Malta’s Neolithic temples and tries to find the real meaning behind such beautiful and perfect constructions. According to Saliba, there is a millenary voice emanating from such sanctuaries which few comprehend or even hear. It is a voice which makes us one with the universe that surrounds us, a voice which reminds us also of peace and inner happiness. In such primordial constructions Saliba sees, “Ancient dreams translated into artistic forms/ revealing an early divine presence/ that we humans have known together.” Here “Our metaphysical heritage lies”, “a legacy of sacred geometry,/ animated sculpture/ bequeathing us with a truth/ that our century cannot as yet exactly fathom…” (from A dream in stone).
Potis Katrakis was born in Demonia in Laconia, Greece. One of his most recent publications is The Unforseen (2009). Here we also see Katrakis as an environmentalist and conscience to mankind. In Overpopulation and development the poet deals with the pollution of waters and the lack of pure and natural fountains. Even Predictions deals with “natural phenomenon… pollution… overpopulation”, and also with “atomic arms… terrorism”. All these put our future in danger. On the other hand, in The silence of nature one reads that the poet and nature are bound together. Katrakis observes that nature’s silence is more eloquent than man’s “voice or his pen”: that’s why the poet “spend[s] many times/ reading its silence”.
Poetry itself is frequently a theme in Katrakis’s verse. When imagination is in love is about the conception and birth of poetry. This is very beautiful and lyrical verse: white paper on which poetry is written is compared to a “ploughed plain”. Three pillars on which poetry is built are memory, fantasy and judgement (Building poetry). In Poet of visible and of invisible Katrakis asks who the poet is. For him the poet is he who praises all things, visible and invisible. In The extent of a poem he writes that:
“The extent of a poem
In Overpopulation and
does not depend on the number of pages
and its verses
but on the quantity
and the power of light
that it radiates.”
Poetry is light and thus a healing element against “the darkness of soul” (The light of poetry). Poetry is understood as words (or theory) which can be transformed in actions (or practice).
Another contemporary Greek poet is Eleni I. Grivas, born and still living in Kato Tithorea Lokridas. In one of her latest publications, Pictures of Life(2010), we see Eleni Grivas as the observer of the simplest of everyday things and thus knows that life is made up of strong contrasts. Thus poetry here is a means to reflect about humankind (with its good and evil) and life. She writes about the love and affection of children on the one hand, and about the destruction and cold-heartedness of the adult world on the other. Grivas thus upholds positive values (love, friendship, happiness, having a “good heart”) against today’s materialistic world (wealth, greed, money, power), which is worthless when death strikes.
Happiness is enjoying the things which have no price and are thus beautiful and unreachable (Health and safety). Where there is no love there is tyranny, poverty and distress (Poverty). Obstinacy is no direct way to knowledge, and the latter neither can be bought (The headstrongness). Bitter words are worse than wounds and sores. All this – including passion and mistakes – may create pain which is kept secret or is hid behind a laugh (The pain, Mistakes). Moreover, pleasure is the result of peace of mind and serenity of the soul (The peace of mind). Grivas advices her reader to think before talking: that’s how one is fair with others in life (Thought). In another short poem Grivas writes about education which she deems as the solution to drugs, theft, murder and rape.
A recurrent element is Grivas’s voice in favour of the “needy people” and in protest against “unscrupulous men” (A total catastrophe). Such a disaster comes when mankind is spoilt through money and materialism which lead to the suffering of many (Disaster).
Grivas also writes environmental verse: in Pollution she contrasts the clean air of the mountains (there is where the real life is) to pollution of the city (man has to escape all this). The mountains are a space where the poet is happy (Spring), and spring is life and happiness through its sounds and colours. In The road of disaster Grivas writes about animal extinction, burning forests, pollution, and ozone problems. Even here we see the poet as the pulse of what’s happening in today’s world.
One of today’s Indian poets is Arbind Kumar Choudhary. He is the founding father of the International Association of Poets, Essayists and Novelists (2006) at Begusarai, Bihar, and one of the founding members of the World Literature Society, Tripura. He is also editor of two reputed literary magazines, “Kohinoor” and “Ayush”. His latest publication is Nature (2011). His is a very concise and intriguing poetry, and his language is very particular. His starting point as a poet is Nature, but his final destination is reflection about different aspects of everyday life such as love and infidelity, politics and corruption (“The petticoat government/ Is the penchant/ Of the prudient/ For the acid test of the potent.”), birth and death, nature and spirituality (“The shaping spirit/ Of the hermit/ Elicits the introit/ Of natural esprit.”), also evil.
As Kurt F. Svatek from Vienna writes in the Forward, Choudhary’s “poems are not only a romantic admiration of nature. They have no doubt the “double bottom” to sharpen our consciousness for the problems here and there.”
I have recently received a great number of poems from Dr. Adolf P. Shvedchikov, Russian scientist, poet and translator. He was born in Shakhty in 1937 and published a big number of poems in different international literary magazines. About universality of poetry is his short poem Put parallel mirrors in front of each other: here Shvedchikov writes, “Put parallel mirrors in front of each other,/ And you become absorbed in the mirror reflection of real life./ You disappear completely,/ Your train of thoughts leads you into infinity…” This infinity is that space where all humanity meets and becomes one. Shvedchikov writes about war and hatred in This is the war without end and about human suffering in We come naked to this world. In the first poem the poets writes that “The plague of hatred has been wandering for/ Too long around the world/ And mankind becomes mad!/ People forget about Heaven,/ The hope for good luck disappears…” In the second poem Shvedchikov asks, “Why is reality so cruel and why is our life/ So full of suffering and tears?”
The poetical magic behind the words:
Poets are excellent observers of what is happening within and without humankind. But they are no journalists or bulletin readers. Their words are special because they are woven with great care in order to touch our hearts and echo deep in our souls. Many times they opt for simplicity on a linguistic level. But this does not mean that they put aside the beauty of such mechanisms as metaphor. This is what makes poetry much more colourful and appealing: war is presented as a plague, love as an ointment, nature a refuge and so on. Poetic magic is also rendered through rhythm, rhyme and alliteration. Here poetry is not meaning but also sound. This is most evident in Choudhary’s verse: “The thorn of the tavern/ Is the hawthorn/ That spurns the lovelorn/ Even of the slattern.” Or “The scarlet tippet/ Of the nymphet/ Is the lovely wavelet/ Of the thicket.” (from Nature) Poetry is made of sounds and colours and also of the poet’s sense of wonder as he looks around. Thus Shvedchikov writes:
“I paint your unknown portrait
On the sand of yellow, velvety dunes.
Your smile is charming,
And I am young again!
I blend into one
The sunlight and radiance of the moon,
I live simply without a care
Why do we live?
I hear the whispering of Baltic pine trees
And piercing screams of sea gulls…
I keep in my mind the same morning dew
And your divine face!” (from I paint your unknown portrait)
Humankind’s destiny is death. However, through poetry man becomes immortal. In When I’ll be far away Shvedchikov writes: “When I’ll be far away,/ Don’t burst into tears,/ My verses will stay with you,/ And let time run year after year…” Through poetry man transcends space and time. Is this not poetic magic?