The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Poetic Journeys: National Book Prize Winner for Poetry Antoine Cassar at the Campus Book Festival

Friday, 15 March 2019, 13:23 Last update: about 6 years ago

A thing in motion will always be better than a thing at rest

Arguably one of the best travelled living Maltese poets, Antoine Cassar will be assuming the role of both guest and moderator in a number of activities at this year's Campus Book Festival organised by the National Book Council in collaboration with Għaqda tal-Malti - Università. The Festival will be taking place between 27-29 March at the University Quadrangle.

Cassar's most recent and much acclaimed work, Erbgħin Jum ('Forty Days'; EDE Books, 2017), marks a perceptible shift from his earlier works. In this poetic meditation in the form of a book-long poem addressing his own childhood trauma, Cassar appears to have left behind musings on passports, borders and maps that have characterised his previous works. In Erbgħin Jum the poet sets out to write out his personal pilgrimage out of states of depression and paranoia through the motif of walking, with movement as the best cure for melancholia.


The common thread throughout Cassar's work is what he shares with a pivotal reflection in Olga Tokarczuk's Man-Booker International Winner Flights (Fitzcaraldo Editions, 2017), that "in spite of all the risks involved - a thing in motion will always be better than a thing at rest". The relation with Cassar's previous work Passaport (2009) to the theme of movement is self-evident: Passport is a poem published in the form of a passport, or better, an anti-passport, valid for all peoples and all territories. It is also about the pains of displacement and the yearning to find a place to call home. With a number of readings presented abroad and of translations appearing in numerous languages including German, Spanish and Macedonian, Passport was adapted by Cassar into English:


this passport

for all peoples,

with a rainbow flag, and the emblem of a migratory goose encircling the globe,

in all the languages you want, official or dialect,

in ocean blue, or dried blood red, or coal black ready for burning, the choice is yours,

take it where you will, your passage is safe and unobstructed, the door unscrewed from the jambs [...].    

(from Passport,adapted by Albert Gatt and Antoine Cassar)

Travelling between languages has also featured extensively in Cassar's poetic development.  Born and raised in England until the age of eight, Cassar only began to feel at home in the Maltese language later in life - a journey that would last until his late thirties. His multilingual composition Merħba: A poem of hospitality, awarded the 2009 United Planet Writing Prize, reflects this poetic journey through different languages. It is an ode to the unfailing and unconditional hospitality that welcomes travellers the world over and features a wide range of languages, combining Maltese verse with a wider variety of tongues as a means to reconcile a plurality of close and distant voices.

The opportunities to meet and hear Cassar will be plentiful on Friday 29 March at the 2019 Campus Book Festival. In the evening Cassar will be catching up with the Festival's international guest Rod Mengham for what promises to be a very engaging meeting of minds. Poet and literary translator Mengham will be interviewed about his poetic and academic career; his latest publication, Grimspound and Inhabiting Art (Carcanet, 2018); and his research interests in 1930s and 1940s literary modernism, poetry and contemporary fiction. At 12 noon Cassar will interviewedby friend and fellow poet Prof. Adrian Grima, who has equally enriched the Maltese literary landscape with his work for the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival organised by Inizjamed. Cassar will also be sharing his reflections on issues of immigration in a discussion with Zvezdan Reljić, the photographer behind Wiċċna (2018), a collection of 228 photographic portraits of individuals from different backgrounds and ethnicities, who currently reside in Malta. The book is interspersed with literary worksand essays, including Cassar's own Spanish language poem My face is one and many.

Antoine Cassar has recently been the protagonist of three successful events at the London Book Fair 2019, where he read his poetry on two occasions in the Poets' Corner and lead a seminar on Maltese Literature with Lou Drofenik and Loranne Vella. Visit and for more on Antoine Cassar.

The Campus Book Festival 2019 will run at the University of Malta's quadrangle in Msida from 9am to 4pm on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28March, and from 9am till late on Friday 29 March. For updates, further details and the full programme of events, visit the NBC Facebook page and the festival's event pages.

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