Mizzi was born in 1939, in Żabbar. Starting his career as a teacher, he moved on to become a Customs Official, always remaining very much involved in cultural activities organised by the Ministry of Education. He was later promoted to Assistant Head within the same Ministry, and was the President of the Akkademja tal-Malti for six years. Mizzi was honoured for his contribution to literature on two occasions: in 1995 he was nominated ‘Commendatore – Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’ and in 2011 he received the ‘Sħubija tal-Ordni tal-Mertu’ from the Maltese State. He has published eight collections, winning the Literary Prize for poetry on three occasions, with Poeżiji – Achille Mizzi (Poems, 1993), Vetrati Milwiena (Stained Glass, 1998) and Eklissi Perpetwi (Perpetual Eclipses, 2007).
Mizzi’s themes find their source in his many interests, mainly philosophy, art, music and history. Such subjects imbue his works with symbolism and allusion, allowing the reader a glimpse of the author’s subconscious. In fact, in many instances there is this quiet dialogue, an intermingling of the artist’s subliminal musings with the reader’s, as the latter embarks upon a spiritual journey into the unknown. Mizzi’s poetry deals with existential issues, inviting the reader to question life, death, and everything in between. The life/death/life cycle is one that becomes increasingly salient, not only in verse, but also in the patterns of nature and our inner being. In this context, the reader comes to appreciate how every beginning implies an ending, and how every ending paves the way for a new beginning.
The quality of language is of the utmost importance; poetry questions one’s sense of Self and the notion of a higher power – of God – perhaps even the quest for one’s faith. Time and place become palpable in Mizzi’s poems; past, present and future being experienced as a continuum – merging into one and yet branching out.
Themes recur and are impressed upon us, weaving a common thread through different poems together. Interestingly, the poems which hold most meaning for the poet are the ones he names his poetry collections after. These include Il-Kantiku tad-Demm (TheCanticle of Blood, 1980), Taqtir is-Skiet (Drops of Silence, 1987), Eklissi Perpetwi and Ġenesi (Genesis, 2017). In such works, Mizzi plays with the reader as he toys with language and metaphor – there is a complexity of thought that one needs to riddle out. Mystery and ambiguity are part of the journey towards self-discovery. Ġenesi, for example, implies both a beginning, evoking passages from the Old Testament on Man’s creation (hence our connection with the divine), and change – two of Nature’s constants. Our meeting with the divine and sublime are frequent encounters in Mizzi’s works. Readers earn their way towards communion with the poet, with a higher power, and reflection is recognised as the way to wholeness and balance. Yet hope lingers on. There is the hope to change, as well as the possibility that change implies hope; because we are always in a state of becoming, we are full of potential.
More than anything else, Mizzi’s work is the celebration of poetry. Poetry becomes a means of expressing the beauty that is life, with all that it entails and the recognition that everything is interrelated. Mizzi comes forward as a seeker of Truth, of the roots and routes of origin. To listen in silence and solitude to the poetry of life is just another part of this poet’s aesthetic experience – a reminder that it is on the voyage that we find ourselves.
Biography written by Ruth Bezzina
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul