Maltese-Australian writer Lou Drofenik is interviewed by Patrick Sammut
1. The world today is facing very hard times. I just mention the floods that struck parts of Australia, the quake and tsunami in Japan and the following nuclear threat, and the civil war in Libya. How much do events like these touch the poet/writer? Did you react to such events through some kind of writing (poetry, novel, etc.)?
Nature has always had a way of showing its might and people who have been suppressed by those in power have had a habit of rising against them. Needless to say whether a person is a writer or not, these events are now so graphically and immediately witnessed that their impact is quite overwhelming. Perhaps for me the visuals and the direct witness accounts of these events are so overpowering that as a writer I need time to absorb them and reflect upon them before I can write about them.
2. Do you think that the writer/poet must express himself and sound his voice regarding such events as soon as possible? What is the role of the writer/poet faced with events like these? Is this role less or more important than that of today’s politicians?
Having been in the middle of the 2009 February bushfires in Victoria, I can categorically state that it is very difficult to write or even speak about what I felt or did while I was fighting the fires. Now two years later, I feel that my role as a writer is to rejoice and bear witness to the many acts of kindness and generosity I experienced from strangers, to the binding together of a far flung community and to the healing power of nature. When I look around me and see the way a blackened landscape is now in full flush of blossom and leaf, how the seeds of native plants lay dormant for 20 years only to sprout after that holocaust, I can only marvel at the way nature is giving me back a thousandfold of what I lost. Therefore, I think as a writer – poet my voice has to be the voice of Hope. And it is the voice of Hope, which will make our voices heard above those of the politicians whose terms of office are but ephemeral.
3. The writer/poet has been insisting on the need for peace and respect of nature for decades. Perhaps now the people in general will understand that writers/poets were right. Do you think writers/poets are doing their utmost to make their plea heard? What more can be done?
There is, I believe, an understanding that nature needs to be respected, but I also believe there is a sense of helplessness by individuals when they see how mega companies, such as the mining companies in Australia and elsewhere, continue to exploit the earth for the sake of their shareholders. In these circumstances poets and writers I feel are voices shouting into the wind, their words coming back at them.
4. There is a need for governments and authorities to acknowledge the utmost importance of disciplines such as History, Literature, Philosophy and the like. Modern society does not need only science, finance, marketing, economics and management. How do you react to such a statement?
Yes I agree, and this debate was, is, and will keep going on. History, Literature, Philosophy and the Arts are the soul of a country. But for a country to move forward it also needs science and economics. Where would we be without medical research? Where would a country be without solid economic management? We need to work out a balance where the soul of a nation and the management of its resources whether they are people or goods are in tune with each other.