Monday, October 04, 2010

Critical comment on BEYOND-OLTRE-LILHINN - multilingual poetry collection by Patrick Sammut


Patrick Sammut: beyond, oltre, lil hinn : a collection of poems in several languages; publication – the author, 2009; 124 pp. €8

Patrick Sammut is the vice-president of the Maltese Poets Association (Għaqda Poeti Maltin) and a very prolific and worthy poet. As everybody knows, one of the Għaqda’s aims is to diffuse poetry in various languages, and thus make more and more contacts with foreign poets from different countries. Sammut has embodied this praiseworthy factor into the 124 pages of his latest book, with a fabulous display of poems in English, Italian, Romanian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Dutch and Esperanto. A veritable feast not only for the poetry-lover’s eyes, but also for those who are interested in other languages.

Leafing through the book, I immediately went for (and greatly enjoyed) those poems I could understand and, typical of Sammut’s style, they are beautiful, mellow in tone and highly readable, in spite of the occasional shift from blue to deep purple, as the poet’s mood varies. Where I could not understand the language, the complementary comments to each section by various scholars, amply and clearly gave equal credit to Sammut’s poetic substance.

But, logically, I really went for the poems in English, in Italian and in French, poems I understood and thoroughly enjoyed. Among the English ones, Solid, A Son’s Lament and Reflections are truly impressive; Ricordo di Ravenna, Con Te Vicina and Figlio del Sole get top marks in the Italian section, whilst Quand tu laisses le temps derrière toi, Vains espoirs and Un toast à la paix are real gems in the French section. Indubitably, those who can read the other languages will have a greater treat. An innovation in this book are the autographed poems in the original Maltese, which will allow the reader to compare the translated version with the poem itself.

The cover of this book is a detail from Turner’s celebrated painting Lake of Zug: Early morning, 1843 (which features in miniature on the back flap). Nothing could fit better with the multi-coloured hues of the poems in the book and the varied moods of the poet himself. Indeed this is a poetry book with a difference; and not because of the poetic ramble through various languages. This is simply a book of very good poetry.

Alfred Palma

See also this link in Italian:

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