How I write – John Buttigieg

The way I write is mostly dependent on and reflects who I am. Having been writing poetry uninterruptedly for more than 20 years I admit that the task is not an easy one and on looking back, I not only recollect moments of hard work and anxiety but also ones of great satisfaction.

Writing for me is not an end in itself but a vehicle that puts me into a mode that gives rhythm to my innermost feelings. There seems to be a line of convergence in what I am doing now and what I would like to see as a result. Between the two poles lie the baggage of experiences with its shades of white and grey, sounds that are not readily audible and the encounter with beauty in the most unorthodox of ways.

In the majority of instances, my writing is dictated by an impulse that has no pre-defined order; to this extent over the years, I found myself following certain unconscious rituals. Through writing I have found a space which allows me to express myself. The spatial element takes on a symbolic dimension, not because I particularly want it to do so, but because in so doing, the very act of writing becomes also a way of life. It is like a soothing effect that pervades me all over, especially in the late hours of the fading day or early morning. Rhythm just comes naturally and with it, words fill in the gaps.

My days are never planned and usually follow a habitual course of action which I never attempt to change. Since the process of writing is not a planned endeavour, I spend most of my time glued to the computer, doing several tasks at the same time. The more stressed I am the more creative I become. It may sound silly but that is how it works.

The only individual collection of verse I managed to publish in 1989 is entitled Nixtieqek terġa’ tiġi and could be described as an expression of a state of mind boggling between the fleeting moments of a searching soul and how this could be immortalised in the best possible way through a careful selection of words. It is like a musical score unfolding in head-banging emotions and at the same time reaching a vortex of a disarming calm.

Since Nixtieqek terġa’ tiġi I went through moments when I was not able to put pen to paper, through others where the flow seemed unstoppable. I consider myself extremely lucky to have met exceptional writers who gave me invaluable advice on both literary style and form. Among these, I cannot do without mentioning the late Guzè Diacono, who in the early days of my writing career helped me with my studies and highlighted the importance of the structured form with emphasis on accents or stresses and the correct counting of syllables in a formal poetic pattern. This was later intensified under the generous guidance of Oliver Friggieri, who with his proverbial patience and child-like enthusiasm helped to get me more involved in the variant dynamics of formal metre. I take this opportunity to thank both of them for what they did for me and in the case of Professor Friggieri is still doing.

I must confess that in my case, composition and publication do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, this partly explains why since 1989 I resisted the temptation of publishing another individual collection, though to say it all, plans are underway for this to take place shortly.

Poetry for me is an intimate affair, a poignant reference that is always changing. I cannot see my work finished and even when I do give works for publication, I suffer from immense trepidation. On the other hand reading other writers’ works serves to engage me in a world of focus and detail to the extent that these add fuel to my experimenting of alternative forms/sounds of expression through verse.

If I had to consider labelling myself, I would settle for the word wonderer. For the rest I choose to retain my calm in the face of mediocrity and blatant individualism and keep on dreaming.

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