As is suggested by the titles of both of his key poetry collections, Briffa purposefully employs metaphors pertaining to craftsmanship – in particular, carpenter tools – to suggest the drive towards careful linguistic refinement that poetry engenders. His debut collection – the sizeable tome Bil-Varloppa– was published in 2006, gathering a broad sweep of poetry written from 1985 to 2005. The collection helped announce Briffa as a significant poet among his peers, with Oliver Friggieri describing him as a “poet of love”, while fellow author Sergio Grech claimed that Briffa represents the essence of what a poet should be – somebody who distills his experiences before morphing them into verse. Bil-Varloppa even attracted the attention of marine biologist and environmental activist Alan Deidun, who described the thematic cluster of poems within the collection that deal with the environment as a case of ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, describing the collection as “a cri de coeur by the poet who decries the inexorable despoliation of our natural heritage at the hands of speculators”.
Prior to becoming a published poet, however, Briffa established himself within the literary scene by serving as the literary editor of weekly newspaper KullĦadd from between 1994 and 1998. He also produced and presented the literary television programme Nixxiegħa for PBS, and served as president of the Għaqda Letterarja Maltija from 2007 to 2008. Before making the jump into his first collection, his verse was featured in the Poeżijaplus anthology Jiflu Żmienhom (2003).
The Tale of a Grasshopper and a Tomato and Other Poems was his sophomore publication, a bilingual edition featuring English translations of Briffa’s poetry by Rose Marie Caruana. Another substantial collection would follow in 2018: the self-published Bil-Boqxiex, divided into nine thematic sections and collecting poems written between 2006 and 2017.
On top of the awards bestowed upon him by the National Book Council, Briffa has also won Premju Ġieħ Ġużè Aquilina (1998), Premju Letterarju Patri Marjanu Vella (2000) and was awarded the Premju Ġieħ Ħal Lija in 2020, in honour of his contributions to Maltese literature.
Written by Teodor Reljić
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul