Anything but a kapriċċ
The Sunday Times of Malta | Escape | December 27, 2015
ADRIAN GRIMA | Klin u Kapriċċi Oħra | Klabb Kotba Maltin 2015
Poetry is slowly enjoying a resurgence on the local front. Years of students breaking their backs trying to connect with the likes of Dun Karm Psaila and Ruzar Briffa who – despite all their undisputed merits – hardly tap into the zeitgeist of today’s generation, have evolved into a slow, but steady stream of contemporary poetry by some of Malta s finest wordsmiths. Such as Adrian Grima, him of Klijenti Antipatiċi u Kappuċċini Kesħin, Vleġġa Kkargata, Hawn Jidħol il-Gawwi and Id-Demm Nieżel bħax-Xita fame, among others.
His latest release, Klin u Kapriċċi Oħra, is another foray into the beauty of our language when used with care. Like all poetry books worth the paper they’re printed on, this collection is not one to be rushed through in one sitting or to be read while your mind is idly wandering around on other topics. Instead, it is to be savoured slowly, each poem given its due attention and time, all the better to savour the emotions that every word is imbued with.
Undoubtedly, the fact that it is written in Maltese will intimidate many. However, while impeccably used, the type of language favoured by Grima is far from impenetrable. Indeed, it is the simplicity of the words as they come together to create a melodious whole that holds a lot of the attraction.
The book is divided into six collections, each with a different mood – all the poems are a love-letter of sorts, whether to a woman, to pain or even to life itself, as it were. A number of the poems either refer to foreign shores within the stanzas, or else end with a reference to a place, a decision that somehow makes tbe words and feelings leap from the page and from fiction into a more concrete reality, almost as though the poet were allowing us a glimpse into selected pages from his personal journal, so to speak. Indeed, a number of them are based on actual happenings or real people, famous or not.
Il-Kapriċċ is probably my favourite collection, an ode to that feeling that we call ‘love’ that is intense without any hint of sappiness. Instead, in L-Imħabba l-Kapriċċ, we have the sometimes-rapturous, sometimes painful tug of war between two people. L-imħabba I-biża’, il-mistħija, il-kapriċċ… (love is fear, shame, an indulgence) this piece is replete with all that confusion, rage and helplessness that is the real deal.
It’s an intensity that is repeated in the entire section, from the Qlugħ mimli b’xufftejk / bil-Majjistral skur jixghel t’ghajnejk of Qlugħ fuq it-Tbissima Tiegħek; to the urgency of the lover in Xufftejk Spjegati, and the almost resigned devotion in Id-Dijaframma tal-Ġisem. Grima’s is a love full of contradictions, soaring from the peaks of ecstasy (Bid-dlam t’ghajnejk tobromni / ġo dahri, minn għonqi, ġo fommi – Għajnejk I-Alġier) to the very depths of despair (Nisma’ għajnejk imdemmgħa fuq it-telefown / u leħnek f’qalbi mxaqqgħa – Jekk Ħarist).
Rebbiegha follows, a collection of conversations between the poet and various people – friends, lovers, acquaintances. Politics replaces love here, albeit not completely as the author addresses issues that have dominated the headlines in recent times. A strong sense of identity – of our Mediterranean heritage and everything it brings with it – permeates these works. L-Ewwel Frejgatina paints an all-too-real picture of the facile fear and faux patriotism inspired by forced migrants;
it’s a poem that should be posted on the Facebook walls of all these so-called patriotic groups, to drive their ridiculousness home as they plot against the helpless, only for their ire to be forgotten promptly in favour of their comfortable existence (Mitluf kif jien f’dad-dlamijiet / ma nindunax li d-diskors spiċċa / u ġa ġabulna l-pizza).
Deportazzjoni and Mediterran bring us more of the same hopelessness with a poignant honesty, while other poems like Gift of Life and Fwd: Midnight Invasion strike a sadly familiar chord, telling the story of the countless wars that keep on tearing apart the Middle East, the Balkans and even a particularly chilling piece about the reported suicide of Bosnian dictator Ratko Mladic’s daughter Ana.
But, perhaps, not as chilling as Tbenġil, a collection that is likely to strike too close to home for many, with its introspection about the finite journey that is life and the many ways the human body betrays us. The intransigence of our presence on earth is quite brutally laid out in Inkontinenza, with its Xi Jħalli warajh il-ġisem … Id-diżappunti jħalli, misluħa … Imbaghad il-mtstrieħ / it-tradiment aħħari. Sebgħin Sena Tbenġil describes the pain and indignity of old age almost tenderly, while Awtoproduzzjoni is frightening in its matter-of- fact account of what happens when your own body turns against you.
The penultimate collection, L-Abbiss includes a particular poem – L-Abbiss fuq Ħuġbejk – that borrows from lyrics by Robert Farrugia Flores of the band Plato’s Dream Machine. The inspiration works and, in fact, while going through Grima’s poetry it comes natural to imagine it being set to music.
Grima’s words get under the skin of the reader, making you go back to a particular verse or phrase, eager to find that meaning that you may have initially missed, wanting to analyse and check whether the author is really on to something.
And he is, as Klin instils a variety of sometimes contradictory emotions that very often cause discomfort and a dawning realisation of a truth that, somehow, the subconscious had already been aware of.
One thing it will not do is leave the reader unmoved. And, even if just for the vast spectrum of feelings it manages to invoke, this makes Klin u Kapriċċi Oħra anything but a kapriċċ.