Born in Attard in 1977, Aquilina was first nudged towards Maltese poetry on the strength of the radio outreach of the late Oliver Friggieri, whose broadcasting on local literary matters had a profound effect on the young Aquilina. In fact he claims, in no uncertain terms, that it did nothing short of saving him. In hindsight, he views the poetry of Friggieri’s generation to have left the deepest imprint on his literary appreciation and, eventually, writing process, most pointedly through his regular take-up of the hendecasyllable. Aquilina also owes a literary debt to the bilingual author and playwright Francis Ebejer, along with the works of Frans Sammut and Alfred Sant.
His first scribblings at 14 years of age were the necessary products of a juvenile voice still finding its legs, and his initial explorations into the field yielded a response that is perhaps typical of all relative late-comers: the fear – or, in Aquilina’s own words, sheer panic – of knowing one has not read nearly enough.
Thankfully, Aquilina’s anxiety was not overpowering enough to lead him to discard his works entirely, and he eventually worked up the courage to select some worthwhile verses among the jumble. Significantly, he was helped along in this by fellow poets Immanuel Mifsud and Adrian Grima, whom he met “electronically” but with whom he has struck a fruitful friendship ever since.
Publication was soon to follow, with Aquilina’s debut collection Leħnek il-Libsa Tiegħi (Your Voice My Only Clothing, Edizzjoni Skarta, 2010) followed by Tluq (Departure, Edizzjoni Skarta) in 2019. Aquilina’s debut collection is redolent of the poet’s own tendency to be his own worst critic, as while the collection covers nothing short of 15 years of writing, it contains a very sparse selection of the poet’s earliest material. Meanwhile, he describes the poems in Tluq as stemming from a loss which keeps on giving, and which are borne out of a consideration of what it means to be different things to different people in one’s life.
Aquilina was named poet laureate for the year by the National Book Council in 2020. He lives in London.
Biography written by Teodor Reljić
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul