Writing and the Maltese language were always close to Buttigieg’s heart. In 1931, together with Ġużè Bonnici and Rużar Briffa, he founded the Għaqda tal-Malti, a Maltese language society at the University of Malta. He was also a prolific poet, authoring several anthologies and amassing a number of awards for his work.
Buttigieg is known as The Poet of Nature because his imagery frequently features local flora and fauna. He viewed nature as a source of beauty and a means for human consciousness and imagination to access the sacred. One could say he understood nature to represent the truest form of divinity.
Nature, in all its complexity and diversity, is true to its own being if left unfettered and unencumbered by the demands of humanity. In ‘L-Għasafar tal-Bejt' (‘The Sparrows’) the birds pick at the pests that assail the bean plants. Besides feeding themselves, the sparrows free the plants from the tiny parasites that prevent them from bearing fruit. Buttigieg is telling us that nature is perfect and harmonious and, by extrapolation, being at one with creation is akin to becoming one with God.
This poem contrasts heavily with ‘Il-Mewt tas-Sieħba’ (‘Death of the Companion’). In this poem, the idyllic existence of a pair of song thrushes, so engrossed in building their nest and feeding their young, is interrupted by the violent intrusion of a human being when the female bird is shot and killed. For Buttigieg, nature is not simply a backdrop to human endeavor – one cannot intrude upon it without this having grave consequences. Many times, Buttigieg depicts human beings as invaders; arrogant outsiders who believe they are entitled to exploit their environment as they please.
On the other hand, human beings also have the capacity to preserve nature. Buttigieg knows this and chooses not to interfere in what is essentially good. His intervention is limited to revering the beauty of nature through his writing. In ‘Lill-Kampanella’ (‘To the Purple Morning Glory’), the poet claims that the plant is nothing but the discarded garment of a fairy who, disappointed by the actions of human beings, finds refuge in an invisible world that is hidden to everyone but the moon and the poets. The aesthetic experience (reading the poem) thus becomes that which (re)unites nature with people.
By engaging in an earnest and intense dialogue with nature, Buttigieg aspires to connect the human spirit with the divine as it is manifested by nature, celebrating a oneness which encompasses all living beings.
Biography written by Noel Tanti
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul