Antoine Cassar

Antoine Cassar

Born in London to Maltese parents in 1978, Antoine Cassar grew up between England, Malta and Spain, and worked and studied in Italy and France. In 2004, after a thirteen-year absence from the Maltese islands, he returned to the village of his family to re-learn a language he had long forgotten. He lives between Luxembourg and Madrid, working as a translator whilst completing a PhD on the origins of the Spanish sonnet.

A writer of Maltese, English and multilingual verse, in 2008 Cassar took part in the Puglia BJCEM, and recited his poetry with Nabil Salameh of the Italo-Palestinian musical duo Radiodervish. His book Mużajk, an exploration in multilingual verse (Skarta, 2008) was presented at the Leipzig Book Fair and at the poetry festivals of Copenhagen and Berlin. In September 2009, his work Merħba, a poem of hospitality was awarded the Grand Prize of the United Planet Writing Contest.

Cassar’s latest and most important poetic work, Passaport, printed in the form of an anti-passport for all peoples and all landscapes, has been published and presented in Maltese, Italian, French, English and Luxembourgish, with profits donated to local associations providing legal and linguistic assistance to migrants and asylum seekers.


Azul, te quiero azul, azul como la mar
tal-Qrendi. Vieni, scendi, porte-moi sur les ondes,
entre acianos marinos, lejl u nhar, near and far,
take me down, let me drown, sa għerq iż-żerq tal-fond…

Blanc et noir? J’en ai marre! Ô qu’on me laisse choir!
Azul. Not grey, nor gold, no soggy garden pond,
saphir, kaħlani nir, tout être, ne rien avoir,
in quel regno di quiete my subprimordial bond.

Azul, azul del sur, blu dipinto di blu,
la mer, cette grande lumière, toi la vague, moi l’île nue…

O to be who I was, who I was to be me!
O for my wretched soul to dissolve into the sea!

Familja, meta mmut, la tixħtunix fit-tebut:
remmduni, u xerrduni fil-baħar ta’ Ħaġar Qim.


Blue, I want you blue, blue like the sea of Qrendi. Come, descend, take me on the waves, among marine cornflowers, night and day, near and far, take me down, let me drown, to the root of the blue of the deep…

White and black? I’ve had enough! O may one let me fall! Blue. Not grey, nor gold, no soggy garden pond, sapphire, indigo blue, to be entirely, to have nothing, in that realm of silence my subprimordial bond.

Blue, blue of the south, blue painted blue, the sea, that great light, you the wave, I the naked isle…

O to be who I was, who I was to be me! O for my wretched soul to dissolve into the sea!

Family, when I die, throw me not into the coffin: make me ash, and scatter me in the sea of Ħaġar Qim.

Qrendi is a small village close to the southern cliffs of Malta, where one can find the prehistoric megalithic temples of Ħaġar Qim and L-Imnajdra.

Published in Mużajk, an exploration in multilingual verse (Skarta, 2008)


Nota bene

Come, armageddon, come! The skies are cold and bleak,
passo appresso passo mi pento e mi rinvio,
nuit d’orage, cri sauvage!, è l’io contro l’io,
nitkarrab u nitkelleb, and shout, and scream, and shriek…

Le xbin, tibqax bit-tama. Tagħmik, tgħallik, taħxik..
Sí, déjalo vacío, ¡que corra, corra el río
de la vida, del verbo, del alma en estío!
Il me reste la parole. Sans elle, tout est oblique.

Iebes, li tibqa’ liebes korazza tal-azzar,
un pensiero di pietra, une conscience de cristal.
Nota bene: la speme t’acceca. Non darle retta.

Vabbè. L’amor non è che fumo di sigaretta,
the life span of a germ, the journey of a sperm.
’Żda le, yo viviré. One day, perhaps, I’ll learn.

Nota bene

Come, armageddon, come! The skies are cold and bleak, step after step I repent and postpone myself, night of storm, savage cry!, it’s the self against the self, I whine and pant doggedly, and shout, and scream, and shriek…

No my friend, don’t keep hope. It blinds you, it boils you, it screws you. Yes, leave it empty, let run, let run the river of life, of the verb, of the soul in summer! I am left with the word. Without it, all is oblique.

Hard it is, to remain wearing an armour of steel, a thought of stone, a conscience of crystal. Nota bene: hope blinds you. Heed it not.

All right. Love is nothing but the smoke of a cigarette, the life span of a germ, the journey of a sperm. But no, I will live. One day, perhaps, I’ll learn.

Published in Mużajk, an exploration in multilingual verse (Skarta, 2008)


on the occasion of “Operation Cast Lead”

They come out from under the table, gather
a few clothes, a few extra oranges, carry
their boy with the headless bear in his hand, leave
toward the shelter of their hut in the field, are wounded
by the burning fragments of glass
exploded from the dead mosque.

She comes out of the cotton-like smoke, her
husband’s silence echoing behind her veil, covered
in dust turning soft and green, the blood
of her son burns on the cold of the sheet,
with no strength to cry, nor to open his mouth
in the overflowing corridor of the hospital.

Such a waste of time, such a waste of life
such a waste of pity relentlessly postponed,
from the open skies, from the breadth of the bay
bombs of lead from a long-threaded lottery,
a futile battle where revenge awaits not:
smoke within smoke, stains upon stains.

Antoine Cassar

translation from the Maltese by the author
published in the anthology Id-Demm Nie żel Bħax-Xita /
Blood Falls Like Rain
, (Skarta 2009)

Open the window, my love

Open the window, my love,
so I can hear, so we can hear
the rain quietly chattering,
drop upon drop rinsing
the grey of the street,
the transcontinental train leaving
the suburb, chugging and gathering speed,
further that way, further this way,
in the Maqluba square,
the children chatting away in the shade of the carob
without rhyme or reason, or perhaps with them,
surveiled only by the chirping
of the old cricket.

Open the window, my love,
so I can smell, so we can smell
from the oven at the end of the alley
the dough growing into a ftira, meeting
the first dew,
far away, close by,
from the southern veldt, the flowers
surrounded by flowers, the baking
blue hibiscus,
open a little more, so we can smell arriving
from the chill of the bay the salty squall
upon the bridge of Pyongyang.

Open the window, my love,
so I can see, so we can see
the guanaco lightly stepping
with boots of wool,
on one side or the other
of the Bosphorus, the dervish
whirling upwards, his arms
wide open, like a white orchid
ready to be picked,
or a dandelion suddenly
spreading its seeds
like wind in the sails.

Open the window, my love,
so I can feel, so we can feel
the liberating echo
of a hundred thousand windows opening,
now forget about the window, let’s go outside,
the wild geese are passing abreast the moon,
run let’s reach them meeting their mates
in a beautiful racket
of arrows and circles and waves
like a grandmother shaking her sheets in the sky,
hurry let’s follow them spiralling down
a cascade of foam onto the green of the tundra,
with the breeze coming in
to caress our bodies,
we taste the renewing air, for our mouths forever,
we leave plenty after us for man and beast
and for the little gosling
which right now I can hear
squirming, struggling,
boring with her beak
to hatch free.

Translation from the Maltese by the author

From Atlas


xi mkien wara l-ittra M,
nitfa daqs nitfa,
erba’ blatiet –

fuq nett, Għawdex,
jekk trid, lewża mimduda,
ħelwa fir-rebbiegħa,
fil-ħarifa mielħa,
jekk trid, stallett tar-ram,
jekk trid, għajn ta’ mara Feniċja
tgħasses il-Mediterran.

Ftit ‘il hawn, Kemmuna sbejħa,
ġemel ta’ ġiex ħotob, bilqiegħda
jċaqlem ix-xedaq,
kif ibaxxi rasu biex jixrob mil-laguna
nibża’ li jixraq fil-qroll tal-plastik.

Isfel nett, Filfla mkissra,
dari midbaħ tal-ġganti,
ilbieraħ issagrifikata daqqa daqqa
f’ġieħ l-allat tal-gwerra,
u llum xorta ssellmilna
bil-kappell li għandha,

u fiċ-ċafċif ħafif faċċata,
sejħilha ġawhra, sejħilha dagħwa,
sejħilha ċagħka mdawra bir-ragħwa,
sejħilha solitudni mielħa
jew ħuta tinten minn rasha,
denbha ‘l fuq, ramlija,
żaqqha żonqrija,
b’għajn waħda fuq wiċċ l-ilma
tħares lejn sieq l-Ewropa,
l-għajn l-oħra moħbija,
donnha kaħlija storduta
tipprova taħrab minnha nfisha,
minn xibka għal xibka tgħum
forsi ssib ftit tal-wisa’,
minn xibka għal xibka tgħum
sa x-xibka tilbisha,
tgħum f’tikmix il-mewġ bla ma taf fejn se ddur,
tgħum bla taf fejn trid tmur.


From Atlas


And then,
somewhere behind the letter M,
a speck-sized speck,
four rocks –

at the top, Gozo,
if you like, a reclined almond,
sweet in spring,
in autumn salty,
if you like, a dagger of bronze,
if you like, the eye of a Phoenician woman
guarding the Mediterranean.

A little this way, beautiful Comino,
a two-humped camel, sitting down
slowly churning his jaw,
as he lowers his head to drink from the lagoon
I fear he may choke in the plastic coral.

Right at the bottom, crumbled Filfla,
in ancient times an altar of giants,
yesterday sacrificed thump after thump
in the name of the gods of war,
yet today she still salutes us
with the hat that she has,

and in the slight splash across the water,
call her a pearl, call her a blasphemy,
call her a pebble surrounded by foam,
call her a salty solitude
or a fish reeking from her head,
her tail up, sandy,
her belly marble-hard,
with one eye above the water
towards the foot of Europe,
the other eye hidden,
she is like a dizzy saddled bream
attempting to flee from herself,
from net to net she swims
perhaps she’ll find a little space,
from net to net she swims
until she dresses the net,
swims on the wrinkling waves not knowing where to turn,
swims not knowing where to go.


Poetry in this post: © Antoine Cassar
Published with the permission of Antoine Cassar