How I write – Patrick J. Sammut

by Marie Benoit

I must admit that I spend a big part of the day either reading or writing. My mind is all the time thinking about what’s next. As a Sixth Form teacher of Italian and Maltese language and literature I regularly write short articles about particular writers or specific themes in literature and poetry. When I do this I keep in mind the readers and so I try to be as simple and clear as possible, giving ample space to the poets, writers or writing I am analyzing through interesting quotations or excerpts from their literary works. As a book reviewer I first like to read the text in detail and jot down ideas, themes, important aspects; all this as I am reading through the pages. Then arrives the moment when from chaos I create order, and the study or review is born. A taste of all this can be found in my two books Tieqa fuq kittieba Maltin (2003) and Temi fiIl-Poeżija Maltija u lilhinn (2007)

As a father of two young children I also managed to write over 70 short stories for children. Some of them have been published in Sagħtar, and others in the book Ħolm Qabel L-Irqad (2009) which I co-authored with my uncle, Joseph Sant. My children usually inspire me and supply me with the raw material, and this happens mostly before bedtime when they ask dad to tell them a new story there and then. I just ask them about what and they usually provide me with the introductory phrase. At that moment my imagination is at work and many times I manage to create five- or 10-minute stories which are finally well appreciated by my children. I managed to transfer on paper some of them, those which I deemed the best, but on other occasions my memory failed and other stories were lost. Many times I try to observe how my children look at reality, then I try to do the same thing, and that’s how my stories for children are born.

In the late 1990s I spent some time studying and travelling in Italy and Cairo. When I returned I just got hold of pen and paper and managed to write a number of short stories about my experiences abroad. I literally could not go to sleep because I was tormented by different thoughts, voices I heard, places or corners I visited, situations and persons I met. The only remedy was to write. These short stories were much appreciated by Charles Flores and were published in the literary page of a local newspaper.

I also write verse. This gave me the opportunity to join the Maltese Poets Association and actively take part in its regular activities. As regards to poetry, it is not I who decide when and what to write. In fact there are times when long months pass before I write a single poem, but then there are others when I write one or two in a day, or five in a month. This depends on many things. I may be watching the news bulletin or an interesting film; I may be abroad, or find myself in a particular situation, meet a particular smell or hear a particular noise. I may wake up in the middle of the night with a specific thought in my mind. All this then pushes me to write poetry in either Maltese, English or Italian. Yes, it’s also the moment, which decides which language I use, not I. Some poems are linked to my travels abroad, some are elegies and many others reflections on different aspects of everyday life. I have written poems on the coach while being driven at 110km/h or at rest in front of spectacular scenes such as Selmun, the natural valleys of Umbria or in front of the pyramids in Giza or Qattara.

I feel that my urge to write poetry increases when I read the poetry of others, both past and contemporary, and in different languages. An excellent magazine is Poesia which I receive monthly directly from Milan. However, I also keep in contact with various contemporary poets from all over the world and was blessed with opportunities where I met them personally. Such an occasion arose at the Nosside Prize-giving Ceremony in Reggio Calabria in November 2008. I keep in contact with many local and foreign poets and writers through internet and enhance contacts through my blog My multilingual poetry collection Beyond-Oltre-Lil Hinn (2009) was born thanks to my friends and poets abroad.

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