The Maltese Poet Who Lived In A Hermitage
14 years in pursuit of inner peace
The Maltese poet Joe P. Galea, who will be among the guests at the upcoming Mediterranean Literature Festival, spoke to Lovin Malta about what it was like to live as a hermit for over a decade.
Now in its 11th edition, the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival will be happening at Fort St Elmo, Valletta between 25 and 27 August and feature readings by both local and international authors, who will also have been translating each other's work into various languages during workshops taking place this week.
Galea, who read at the Festival on Thursday, spent 14 years in isolation, seeking his inner peace among the mountains of Umbria, Italy. But he told us that the most important thing he took away from his experience of the Eremo di San Girolamo, in Pascelupo, Gubbio, was the knowledge that the ‘hermitage’ we build inside of us is what we should focus on.
“One of the purposes of the hermitage on the mountain is precisely to accelerate your journey towards the interior hermitage. Today I’m not surrounded by rocks and trees anymore; I don’t live for the sound of the waterfall crashing down from 90-metre tall rock… But in spite of all this, my vision has to emanate from the same place: from inside, from the hermitage that lies within my heart.”
However, while Galea said that the hermitage what essential for him to get in touch with the peaceful inner core that has since guided him through life, he also admitted that it may not be an experience for everyone, and that deciding to spend a prolonged time in such a place not a commitment one should make casually.
“Just as it can raise you up, the hermitage can shatter you. I’ve seen this happen first-hand, among people who wanted to be there at all costs, without really having a ‘calling’ towards such a place. Each of us has a calling towards something, and the fact that you aren’t called into a life at the hermitage doesn’t mean that you aren’t as strong as those who manage to live inside it with tranquility.”
Eremo di San Girolamo
Asked how the hermitage influenced his poetry (if at all), Galea said that while one should never enter a hermitage “just to have something to write about”, but that the silence and solitude that he cultivated there has a continuity in his own writings – which, like his original purpose to enter the hermitage in the first place – are rooted in his strong religious sentiment and constant pursuit of “the Mystery”.
“Writing never actually distracted me from the essential quiet of the hermitage. Today, I consider writing to be the pursuit of an even deeper silence.”
And without further ado, enjoy Joe P. Galea’s poem Nar...
Sa fejn il-ħars iwassal
U int ħdejja
xotti bħal tiegħi.
Ma jaqta’ xejn il-għatx
u fl-arja n-nar,
’ma jien ġa rmied
u nibża’ ngħidlek.
What else to expect from the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival?
Apart from readings, interviews and music, the festival will also feature short film adaptations of Maltese poetry. This year, Martin Bonnici directs and adaptation of Lillian Sciberras’ poem ‘Meta Tigi MariRos’, while Gilbert Calleja and Matthew Attard will adapt L.O.M.L. by Gilbert Mahoney.
Due to the inclement weather on Thursday, both films will be rescheduled for screening at the Festival to either Friday or Saturday.
The Festival is fast becoming one of the most accomplished of Malta’s summer showcases of art and culture – with its mix of local and international participants and an often highly topical and relevant political slant: showing that literature is often at the forefront of the most pertinent global concerns, and at its best can offer a deeper and more wide-ranging discussion of what’s going on around us than mainstream media.
This year’s edition includes guests from Singapore, Palestine and Cuba among others, who will be reading their work side-by-side with their Maltese counterparts. Click here for more information, and a full programme.
The Poetry on Film short films are made possible by the collaboration of the Valletta 2018 Foundation.
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