Poeżija u Informazzjoni - Poetry & Information
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  • Norbert Ellul-Vincenti (1994)

    Achille Mizzi: A Maltese Volcano

    Times of Malta, 12th February 1994

    Mizzi is an immensely likeable poet for his refusal to be bogged down by pettiness, his shunning of artistic (and other) minimalism, his steering away from sensationalism for its own sake, his ‘technical’ achievement, his immense energy coiled like a tight steel spring in his reticulation of words and imagery, his new language woven with cubist and associative imagery, his loneliness, his erudition.

    Achille Mizzi broke on the Maltese scene like an irruption from on high . As there has been only one Dun Karm - when you consider the context in which he wrote, and what he did to it, - so there has been only one Achille Mizzi, appearing from nowhere, a gift of the gods, with thunder in his voice and a new speech on his tongue.

    In many ways he marks the coming of age of the Maltese language and of its literature. He has no need to be Maltese or to wear the red and white tie. He shuns direct commitment, relevance and politics, and leaves the petty doings of men to petty creatures. But his is the voice of the Poet, the Man-Poet, smarting from the burning wounds on his body, and burning with the fire of God inside…

    …For it is not to society, that he must take his ills and his claims of injustice. Not to the politicians or theologians, not to the overweening institutions of men , not to mere fellow mortals It is not there he must knock for an answer. It is to the door of heaven that he must go with his beating. It is God himself that must be addressed. He eschews polemics except with God alone. But even with the Divinity, he himself has no complaint to make. It is his internal wounds that form mouths themselves, and speak.

    Backwards and forward he goes in time, seeking the roots of existence, the whys and wherefors of his calling whether as poet or as man. No mountain is too high for him, no depth beyond his reach. Bursting with energy like a radio-active mass, he sits atop a volcano like Empedocles on Etna. Unlike the Greek, however, he is not thinking of disappearing into the fiery depths of the volcano, but of speaking with its voice from the top of the world, because only the top of the world will do.

    He knows no condition of bondage or limitation, whether it be of metre or normal language, of institutes or parties, of nationality or gender. He knows only an inner urge of life, of voice, of divine election, of questioning, of ultimate and absolute truth.

    Man stands alone, naked with the Poet, like a poetic Lucian Freud examining his own pitiful nakedness in the mirror and recording it on canvas.

    He speaks of nature with the senses at full throttle, but even the bat hanging upside down, the spider, and the sexually active flowers of a Dounaier hot-, house, and sex itself are but symbols and bricks of the heightened language that he forges.

    Even woman fails to concern him as woman. She is merely the origin of Man, the eternal seduction into life of sorts, the eternal womb to which it is possible to follow man to the origin of his existence, and even beyond that, into nothingness - the cold black womb of time before time. But woman eludes him, deludes him. Eternal woman, he follows her dancing on tiptoe as she drops her veils along the way, without ever revealing her truth to him.

    Mizzi is the poet driven to holy madness by the desire to know and to speak. He does not dialogue with the rest of mankind. He ‘utters’ - as utter he must. He does not even try to be Maltese. His existential complaint comes as international currency, multiple purpose, but it can be cashed at will in any private bank.

    His subject is poetry itself, as a divine activity of man. Because it is as a poet that he knows himself, a netful of roots and a bag of life-giving seed, the first reaching into the distant past, the second drawing into the future, elements and symbols by which he stretches endlessly into before and after.

    But Achille Mizzi is grounded in his Malteseness because it is this dormant, drooping, impotent language that he must rouse to life. He must sing to it, pull at it, destroy its insularity, stretch its possibilities, rub its nose in the real world of faith and science, of genetics and philosophy, of myth and history and of the best that other languages have seen and written down.

    And behold, like Aaron’s rod before an unbelieving Pharaoh, the language picks up its head and rises, taking by surprise its first hearers. And it looks around with pride and holds itself high …
    The volcano bubbles over as you read Achille Mizzi. The peace comes, and with peace the lullaby of a language that has been tamed and brought to heel.