Adrian Grima | Malta Today, 17 March 2020
I’m no longer a fan of the idea of literature as an instrument of social change. I’m referring to ‘literature’ here as that searching, often tormented and always intoxicating kind of writing that allows us to explore the known and the unknown. That takes us beyond everyday experience and language, but at the same time allows us to delve deeper into them.
But there are other kinds of literature. More immediate perhaps. With a no less important role to play. The kind of poetry they are writing and reciting right now in Algeria. It was not poetry that started the Hirak revolution. But poetry is an important part of this incredible movement. ‘The military rule will be removed’, intones Mohamed Tadjadit, a 26-year-old poet who dropped out of school at the age of 14 and was a fruit seller when the revolution began. ‘And the mafia State will fall / The people are proud and will never be broken / They only want to clean their nation.’
Is this poetry? Of course it’s poetry. And it’s in high demand in Algeria, like the socially engaged Algerian rap of urban poets like Abderraouf Derradji, alias Soolking. But there’s also a more melancholic, more ‘literary’ kind of poetry that’s doing the rounds. It expresses people’s deeper feelings, their aspirations. So it’s not always easy to draw lines between ‘literary’ and ‘popular’ poetry. Do we need to?
Does poetry make anything happen? Ahead of a roundtable discussion bringing together some of Malta’s best known writers, poets and songwriters, we asked each of them the same question.