TAKING THE WEATHER WITH THEM
by Isabelle Vella Gregory
Riħ Min-Nofsinhar is an interesting collection of poems, thoughts and short writings that tackle climate change. Adrian Grima and Immanuel Mifsud provide the verse, while other authors, including teachers, journalists, politicians and environmentalists, weigh in with prose on the topic from their points of view. The result is a highly readable mix of genres that informs without preaching.
The poems on offer are written in a variety of styles, highlighting the diverse issues relating to climate change. Given the topic, it is no surprise that the poems are often explicitly political. The authors make it clear that climate change is (at least partly) driven by human intervention on the environment. Mifsud’s "Aqta’ Fjura u Ibni Kamra, jew Iċ-Ċajta tad-Dollaru" is particularly biting, and it delivers a damning verdict on uncontrolled development with stunning simplicity. While this poem is very particular to the Maltese context, Mifsud’s other poems tackle global issues, notably how economic policies in the West affect other countries.
In this context, it is not surprising that the volume also tackles immigration and population displacement, particularly when they are the result of Western policies. Indeed, the volume is dedicated to those escaping from hostile climates.
Mifsud beautifully intertwines these issues in "Il-Poeżiji tas-Sahara," which also aptly captures the fears faced by Maltese farmers today. While we should all be aware of these issues, and of the very real destruction of our cultural heritage and environment, poetry is possibly the most powerful medium for bringing these issues to the fore. Mifsud manages to do this using a simple language, which is far more effective than scientific jargon, accurate as it may be. Grima’s poetry is equally biting and thought-provoking. "Siem Jiftakar is-Siġar t’Afabet" is an unapologetically macabre reminder of the Battle of Afabet, a watershed battle in the Eritrean War of Independence which resulted in numerous casualties and was possibly the largest battle in Africa since El Alamein.
"Is-Saħna tal-President" is testament to Grima’s razor-sharp wit that exposes the painfully naïve, and shockingly widespread, mentality of people to climate change. It is a skilful piece of poetry that should be required reading for all bureaucrats, in the hope that they somewhat widen their perspective.
The prose contributions make for equally interesting reading. I especially liked the contributions by members of the Koperattiva Rurali Manikata, and one can only hope that their voice will finally be heeded. They are the people who are rooted enough in the earth to understand what is happening to it, and they are also the people safeguarding what is left of our food culture and culinary heritage. They are also the people who understand what "Is-Saħna tal-President" is all about – maybe they should explain it to the bureaucrats.
This book is thus not simply a collection of very good poetry and prose. It encapsulates a very real problem we are facing today. More importantly, it offers a very Maltese outlook on a global problem. It would be foolish to ignore its message.
Weekender (The Times of Malta) 14 March 2009
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