Friday, September 23, 2011

Patrick Sammut’s book of verse Beyond-Oltre-Lil Hinn (2009, Malta)

A review by K.K.SRIVASTAVA

“I am the pen, you are the ink-well

Together we will walk on the earthly tale……”

From- Together We’ll Walk On

When you take up a review of a book for which no request has come to you, one thing you can be sure of is that the review of the said book will be unbiased and not guided by personal biases and considerations. Patrick Sammut, a poet and writer of great distinction, who is the Vice-President of the Maltese Poetry Society, has been rendering great service to literature and mankind through his creative musings. He writes poetry in Maltese, English and Italian. I have had an opportunity to read his book of verse Beyond-Oltre-Lil Hinn, a collection of poems written in English, Italian, Romanian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Dutch, and Esperanto. As I could read and understand only poems in English, my review is confined to these poems which touch on varied facets of life that necessarily carries with it experiences of different hues.

Revelations through these poems reflect on throbbing fullness that life is but that fullness has it’s own scheme of dispersal that is left to every individual to decipher, understand, grapple with and finally to go with or without these dispersals with subsequent consequences. Patrick, aware of such a scheme of things that exists in the cosmos and not baffled by conflicts of existence of an individual, tries through his poems to weave together contradictions and paradoxes contained in such a scheme.

Some of his poems seem to be elliptical memoir poems mixing pleasure with pain. One of the striking qualities of these poems is attention by the poet to the minute details surrounding him and use of rich, intense imageries. A few examples follow:

“my mind’s eye wanders over the immense valley plains

and, lost in the horizon, unites itself…’

Here, he is confronted by his “whole being” which feels “free as the mist that clothes the dawn.” Such a rich imagery is a rarity in poetry of the present era. His imagery tackles all demands normally placed on a poet and still emerges unscathed.

From- Recollections of Assisi

Or as in Perhaps Once Again:

“that deceitful nightmarish voyage that offers-

joys and tears

strength and frailty

memories and amnesia….”

In his very touching poem A Son’s Lament, he seeks “a satisfying answer” to blankness of space the overwhelming of which is to be seen against “happiness, into oblivion lost” and “clouds of illness and solitude extreme.”

“In silence I sob…..

Sharp piercing cries have no significance or place.

Around in vain I turn, where blackness overwhelms,

for a satisfying answer in blank space…”

In another touching poem, Solid, we are immediately transported to vividly realized scene where the poet has, as all true lovers do, to convince his beloved. The eternity of a single moment is important. Between today and tomorrow lie arrays of suffocating moments that test the lover incisively.

“You call me Forgranted

Say that I still don’t know who you are

And for this I bleed in secret.



I look at tomorrow

And trust that one day

I’d understand you, in and out,

and trust much more that, one day,

you’d understand that my love for you

seems not

but is solid true.”

There are definite questions in this collection that keep resonating; in search of answers which readers might either seek in the verses or seek within. Patrick’s writings reveal skills, are careful and unforgettable. Poems are original, exhibiting artistic excellence. The past for Patrick is not the past that is vanished. Past raises a variety of concerns. Past gives him a pause. And that pause causes him to reflect on larger concerns of life and its movements. Use of rhyme to give a shape to poems is unique. The best way to summarize his poems is to put an extract from the Introduction to Beyond-Oltre-Lil Hinn that Agnes Lam from Hong Kong pens succinctly:

“His poetry is like him - sensitive, all-inclusive, caring and passionate... At the very core of his work is this sensitivity to human suffering and the meditation on the value of life in quietness, a quietness so distilled that it requires emotional stillness... Patrick Sammut’s voice in his poetry is essentially one that urges peace and love in all its forms…”

I personally find Patrick’s poems are firmly grounded in the mastery of craft. Poems read either as a single poem or as a body of work open a plethora of possibilities and asymmetries in which readers are allowed the freedom to open their doors of perception, wallow in imaginative speculations and finally explore the roots of literary imagination. It is the vision and not mere circumstance that shapes his poems.

About the Reviewer:

K.K. Srivastava lives in INDIA, has written two books of poems—Ineluctable Stillness (2005) and An Armless Hand Writes (2008). His third book of poems is expected early 2012.

He can be reached at

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