28 March 2010

Ġorġ Pisani, Gozo, Malta

Ġorġ Pisani (1909-99) was born in Victoria, Gozo, his father being a successful wine merchant.

During adolescence he became a novice with an order of Capuchin Francisan friars, studied literature and theology there, and began writing poetry seriously, having some poems published in the Maltese Capuchin Franciscan magazine The Immaculate.

Pisani left the order to become a teacher, and in 1935 became the first headteacher of the Liceo on Gozo. During the war he worked for the Department of Information as a translator and as a co-editor of Information Service Bulletin.

After the war he returned to teaching at the Liceo while still working for the Department of Information, and is seen as one of the pioneers of Gozitan broadcasting.

In The Literature of Malta: An Example of Unity in Diversity, Arnold Cassola says that he gained the title 'Il-poeta ta' l-istorja u l-preistorja ('The poet of history and pre-history'), although he believes that this is too limited a description, as 'Pisani is trying to highlight the collective symbology and imagery of the Maltese and Gozitan society of today, thus bringing out that link of continuity which connects the past to the present.' He therefore sees Pisani's poetic work as 'a pilgrimage into the hazy past, having the present as a clear point of departure, rather than departing from the past to get to our days.'

Cassola also states that at the same time as Gozo is a deeply Catholic country, it retains its links with the pagan past. Il-Ghid taż-Żgħożija is perhaps badly translated as 'The Easter Sugar Youth', but - faute de mieux - it will have to suffice. This is title of the opening poem of a collection published in 1945, and it begins almost in bacchanalian fashion:

'Let’s all drink lost
In a dream of enjoyment,
Before the loss forever
Of the spark of youth.

Wine is inviting us
To joy and revelry,
In its contentment we forget
Sorrow and all worry.'

But as the poem celebrates youth and the energy of pagan times, linked with the past is also the progress that now exists in the present, and will continue into the future. And of course the red of the wine also has Christian associations. Gozo is noted for its wine, a drink which retains a profound importance among the people of the island.

In all, Pisani published eight books of poetry, six plays, a collection of short stories, and two novels.

Two years after his death, a bronze statue of him was placed in Main Gate Square, by the bus terminal in Victoria. In his left hand is a copy of Il-Ghid taż-Żgħożija. It is the work of the Gozitan artist Alfred Camillieri Cauchi.


David Annwn said...

Terrific, Tony, thank you.
A poet I'm interested in knowing more about.
We recently visited the new-ish visitor's centre at the Ggantija archaeological site and saw a film of Gorg reading his poem 'Ggantija' and talked to a local teacher who knows the poet's son.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Many thanks for this comment, David. Please feel free if the fancy takes you to add a note or two on your findings - I can always include an addendum attributed to you.