Azzopardi was born in 1944, in Ħamrun. He studied at the Teachers College and then went on to graduate at the Community Theatre. At the start of his career he taught art, drama and Maltese literature, and later modern theatre at the University of Malta. He was always an influential member of the Malta Drama Centre. Azzopardi was also the editor of leftist literary review Neo, and cultural supplements Spektrum and Fokus.
Azzopardi first published poems in collaborative collections, Antenni (Antenna, 1968), Analiżi ’70 (Analysis ’70, 1970), Mas-Sejħa tat-Tnabar: poeżiji (With the Call of the Drums: poems, 1971) and Dwal fil-Persjani (Light in the Louvers, 1972). He experimented with style, introducing projective verse, even touching upon prohibited themes, such as sexuality, authority, religion and hypocrisy. Much of his poetry is quasi-confessional – inspired by T.S. Eliot and the Beat poets – as he relates his own experiences of indoctrination, as well as his hermetic travels in search of his identity.
Important works are Demgħat tas-Silġ (Tears of Ice, 1976), Passiflora (Floral footsteps, 1977), Tabernakli (Tabernacles, 1979), Monokordi (Monochords, 1984), Noti mis-Sanatorju tal-Mistiċi (Notes from the Sanatorium of Mystics, 1995), and Alicia Titkellem mill-Imwiet u stejjer oħra (Alicia’s spirit talks and other stories, 2007). In his poetry there is always a social message, something to ruminate upon as he forms a bond and a dialogue with the reader. In Demgħat tas-Silġ and Monokordi there is a search for truth and authenticity. The reader feels and is even pulled away from the usual nostalgic Maltese verse, towards the present and the possibility of depth in experiencing truthfully and fruitfully the moment as it is, as well as the possibilities that lie beyond. He plays with what we know to be traditional and gives us something unexpected, something modern but mostly personal. In Azzopardi’s poetry there is so much going on, being said, being transmitted yet perhaps it is also worth appreciating the stillness in such poetry, along with that which is left unsaid. In recent work Azzopardi explores dark and uncomfortable scenarios. Alicia Titkellem mill-Imwiet, is an anthology about pedophelia, alienation, manipulation, drug use, racism and prejudice. These are disquieting stories, they are not only different but ask for a different reader, a different mind.
Azzopardi’s penmanship-markers have to be his sense of irony, protest, ambiguity, drama, social responsibility and a fascination with the macabre. Fine attention is paid to details yet he is also vague; there being an acute sense of pain and loss, which connects everything together yet leaves something wanting.
Something curiously contradictory is Azzopardi’s search for identity; his search seems to be in his unravelling mind yet his rebellious spirit goes against any form of definition. In such ways Azzopardi has elevated and brought much life to Maltese language and thought. His call to action? To listen to those internal voices, to those innermost rhythms … and exploit every corner.
Written by Ruth Bezzina
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul