International Conference on Cultures of Memory/Memories of Culture, organized by the Cyprus Society for the Study of English (CYSSE) (University of Cyprus) in collaboration with European Thematic Network Approaches to Cultural Memory (ACUME) 20-22 February, 2004, Nicosia, Cyprus
Savage Boys and the Predatory Woman in Holland’s Garden
In a poem called “Il-Ġnien” (The Garden), the Maltese poet and short story writer Henry Holland revisits the public garden where he spent much of his childhood. The poet is aware that his personal memories of “savage boys hunting” like the “Indios of the Amazon” are conditioned by the formal and informal education he received as a boy before and after Malta became independent in 1964. But these “loaded” childhood memories are also conditioned by his uneasy relationship with “the woman” whom the gardener identifies with the male-eating “praying mantis” or “mantis religiosa” in the last line of the poem. In a way, Holland’s memories are not really his memories: his perception or understanding of “the woman” (a “praying mantis”) and of himself (like “savage” Indios) is a perpetuation of the stereotypes of the dominant culture. In the poem, he attempts to distance himself from these stereotypes: he can smile at the titles of the books from his childhood education, ‘Look & Learn’, ‘Untamed World’, but when it comes
to dealing with the “predatory” woman he is in no mood to poke fun. The association of the public garden of his childhood with the Garden of Eden where the male was betrayed by the female reminds the reader that in Malta, both culture and memory are heavily influenced by the Catholic religion.
At the Poetry Reading held during the Conference at the CASTELLIOTISSA HALL, Paphos Gate, Adrian Grima read his poem “Distanzi” in Maltese and in English (“Distances,” translated by Maltese poet Maria Grech Ganado). The other writers who took part were Mehmet Yashin, Niki Marangou, Stephanos Stephanides, Maria Thoma, George Moleskis, and Jenan Selchuk.