Mary Meilak

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Mary Meilak

Mary Meilak (9 August 1905 – 1 January 1975) was a Maltese poet.

Meilak holds a unique place in the history of Maltese literature in that she is the first recorded female Maltese poet as well as the first Maltese woman to publish a book of collected poetry.[1]

She was a contemporary of Gan Anton Vassallo, Dwardu Cachia, Dun Karm, Anastasio Cuschieri, Ninu Cremona, Guze Delia, Gorg Zammit, Gorg Pisani, and Anton Buttigieg.[2]

Life[edit]

Born in Victoria, Gozo, on 9 August, 1905, to Ġorġ and Mananni, she received her education at the Central School in Gozo.

Meilak worked in government offices for seventeen years, until becoming a teacher in 1942. She derived great satisfaction from teaching and held her position up until her retirement twenty years later.[citation needed]

She died on 1 January, 1975, at the age of 70. On the centenary of her birth, a memorial was erected in her honor in her hometown of Victoria, Gozo.

Style and Themes[edit]

L-Akkademja tal-Malti describes Meilak as the only female voice among the Maltese Romantic poets who were working during the first half of the 20th century. As Prof. Oliver Friggieri observes:

"Not only does Mary Meilak stand apart from the other poets in that she does not allude to the existential and historical angst of her time, but also because her form of expression is at its best when it throws a fantastical lens on the world around her."[1]

Prof. Ġużè Aquilina and Prof. Peter Serracino Inglott also observe that Meilak had a quick hand and a technically interesting style in that (perhaps unbeknownst to her) she tended to employ the metric found in Arabic poetry rather than the Greek and Italian literary forms which influenced most of her contemporaries.[1]

Meilak's verse is known for its ease and accessibility, embracing colourful flights of fancy, a vision of nature as a limitless horizon, religious themes, the use of alliteration and onomatopoeia, and other elements that lend her work the simple and melodious tone that characterizes her poetic identity.[1] It is this lightness of being communicated through her work that leads Prof. Oliver Friggieri to compare Meilak to "a sorceress who transforms inner life into words."[1]

Works[edit]

Meilak wrote her first poem, Faxx Nemel (A Trail of Ants), when she was 25 years old, in 1930. In 1945, she published her first collection of poems. titled Pleġġ il-Hena (A Pledge to Joy). She also published two volumes of essays titled Nirraġunaw u Nitbissmu (Let's Reason and Smile), three novels titled Nokkla Sewda (Black Locks), San Nikola tal-Venturi (St Nicolas of Venturi) and It-Tewmin tal-Birgu (The Twins of Vittoriosa), as well as two operas and some operettas.

A set of currently unpublished poems show a different side to Meilak, with works that shed light on her experiences and perspectives during World War II.[1] These poems are evidence of Meilak's sympathies with the British Empire, as well as her intense patriotism, which is evident in poems that employ the hyperbolic and heartening language often found in war time poetry.

For many years, Meilak was also a regular contributor to "Leħen is-Sewwa" (The Voice of Truth)[1], a print publication established by the ecclesiastical authorities of Malta on September 1, 1928, and which is still run by volunteers from Malta Catholic Action[3]. Many of the poems which Meilak contributed to this publication were of a religious nature, including a series of works related to the Passion of Christ, which were gathered into one volume under the title L-Istrumenti tal-Passjoni (Instruments of the Passion)[1] by Frank L. Mercieca in 2005.[citation needed]

List of works[edit]

  • Pleġġ il-Hena (1945)
  • Nirraġunaw u Nitbissmu 1 (1946)
  • Nirraġunaw u Nitbissmu 2 (1947)
  • Dawra Misterjuża (1947)
  • Villa Meylak: Ġonna ta' Kulħadd (1947)
  • Album: Poeżiji (1947)
  • Nokkla Sewda (1958)
  • Songs You Will Like (1971)
  • L-Istrumenti tal-Passjoni (2005)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Vella, Josmar (9 March 2019). "Mary Meilak". L-Akkademja tal-Malti. Archived from the original on 9 March 2019.
  2. ^ Murphy, Patrick D.; Gifford, Terry; Yamazato, Katsunori (January 1998). Literature of Nature: An International Sourcebook. Taylor & Francis. pp. 212–. ISBN 978-1-57958-010-0.
  3. ^ Cordina, Joe C. (October 11, 2008). "Church newspaper Leħen is-Sewwa: 80 years in service of the truth". Time of Malta. Retrieved 11 March 2019.