In Pisani’s view, language provides a sense of identity, a shared ground that moulds and manifests itself alongside beliefs, thoughts, customs and behaviours. In ‘Għar Dalam’, a poem named after Malta’s oldest prehistoric site, Pisani constructs a narrative about the island separating from the African continent, thus re-enacting and re-interpreting history with the intention of emphasising a sense of self that is unique to the Maltese.
‘F’Ħaġar Qim’ (‘In Ħaġar Qim’), another poem referring to a Maltese prehistoric site, Pisani portrays a scene inside a temple. The language is florid and rich in detail, with images of dancing girls and commanding priests invoking the power of the gods to protect them from the attacks of marauders. The scene could have easily been lifted from a Cecil B. DeMille film. Here, Pisani uses fantasy to enrich and cement Malta’s ancestry in the hearts and minds of the Maltese.
One could say that Pisani’s poems are intended for the Maltese people and the Maltese alone; he is not interested in exploring universal human concerns. He looks deep and hard at the past, and uses his imagination to construct stories whose truths are intended to transcend time and space.
In both ‘F’Ħaġar Qim’ and ‘Għar Dalam’ the poet exhorts young people to listen to and absorb these stories. Pisani believed that language should extend beyond its basic, functional, everyday use; its aesthetic application might instead encourage young people to be more introspective, discerning and self-aware. Possibly, he surmised that a robust sense of identity grows organically from one generation to the next, and that specifically addressing a young cohort hopeful for the future would be more fruitful.
Pisani seems to inhabit a poetic mindset that is radically different from the one full of existential woes and quandaries embraced by peers like Dun Karm Psaila, Rużar Briffa and Karmenu Vassallo. However, in ‘Triqat Mitlufa’ (‘Missed Pathways’), for instance, we see him doubting his calling as a poet as he grapples with alternate ways of living. The path of love left him feeling bitter and betrayed, as did a hedonistic route. His journey of self-discovery leads him right back to where he started, back to being a poet; this is the path truest to his nature. But one cannot fail to notice an underlying sense of regret. A poetic frame of mind presupposes an above-average insightful disposition which can be both a blessing and a curse. As a poet, Pisani constantly parsed and interpreted the world around him. This may have prevented him from living a simpler, more contented life.
Pisani believed that one’s language was a necessary tool for the formation of a national identity and that its use in different aspects of life enabled this identity to grow, develop and keep abreast with times.
Biography written by Noel Tanti
Arts Council Malta
Creative Industries Platform
Project co-ordinator: Clare Azzopardi
With the help of: Kirsty Azzopardi, Leanne Ellul and Albert Gatt
Proofreader: Dwayne Ellul