Twice nominated for The Pushcart Prize between June and November 2018 by two different US publishers, Dr Raymond Fenech Gonzi embarked on his writing career at 17, as a trainee parliamentary reporter, working for three major Maltese political newspapers. He worked as a journalist with the leading English newspaper, The Times of Malta, at 20, few months after the building of the newspaper was attacked by thugs, dispatched by the totalitarian Mintoffian Regime to burn the offices down. After the demise of the regime, the author sought pastures new away from politics, and worked for a leading advertising agency in its PR and copywriting department. He was appointed editor of two nationwide distributed magazines, Living 2000 and The Globe Trotter and managing director of an in-house advertising agency he set up for the largest travel agency, Mondial Travel.
At the peak of his career, aged 42, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer closely followed by a stroke. Raymond survived and went on to set up his own business as a consultant in advertising, PR, copywriting, editing and printing for the following 20 years, until his retirement in 2018. He is now working as a full-time writer, poet and editor.
He was assigned to edit The Dream, the Glory and the Strife, the annual members’ anthology of the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance in 2017, and wrote a lengthy review about the poetry anthology, Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century, published by Lummox Press, USA and edited by the renowned Canadian writer, translator, publisher, poet and book reviewer, James Deahl. The 20,000-word review is being published in serial parts in the literary magazine, Canadian Stories.
Fenech Gonzi’s work has appeared in various literary publications, including, books, anthologies, magazine, journals and newspapers in 15 countries. The author’s most recent two publications, The Incident of the Mysterious Priest and Other Stories and a collection of his poems, Growing with the Shadows were both published and launched by a New York Publisher, USA, in 2018. Both books were launched at the International Book Fair, Expo America in New York during the same year.
Most of his research on Maltese ghosts appeared in The International Directory of the Most Haunted Places by Penguin Books, USA, 2000, edited by Dennis William Hauck. Ray studied the paranormal, the occult and parapsychology with several institutions in this field, including Flamel College, USA, The UK College of Holistic Training and Edinburgh University, Scotland.
He has a BA, MA and a PhD in journalism and creative writing, and certificates in both Poetry Therapy and Therapeutic Journaling. He was awarded a scholarship in poetry therapy by The Creative ‘Righting’ Center, Touro College, Hofstra University of New York in 2007. He is the academic advisor (Poetry Therapy), at The UK College of Holistic Training (UKCHT).
Raymond launched his own magazine, Literature for the People, in 2020, available on Amazon Books.
The old village used to smell
of fresh fish and sea lettuce,
of seawater stored in barrels
where Awrat* were cleaned and washed.
The fishing trawlers are departing
but not on fishing trips
to catch lampuki*,
but on tourist harbour cruises.
Ports are no longer made
from aging pebbles where crabs
used to build their den,
and little prawns tickled
children’s toes as they cooled
their feet in the warm summer sea.
It’s all luxurious yachts
flooded by artificial lights,
reserved only for the privileged few.
When the blustery wind rages
the elements dance to its music,
it’s no longer like it’s blowing kisses,
rather it’s like it hisses:
The past has passed,
no place for the past …
On the first rain’s downpour,
the poppies and clover
will be gone from the fields
as more concrete cages are built
claustrophobic prisons mills;
millionaires party on super yachts
whilst birds leave seeking other lands,
red sunsets and green fields
are only in blinding traffic lights.
*Awrat (Gilthead Bream)
*Lampuki (Dolphin Fish): It is a very traditional Maltese dish,
which most tourists would seek during August, September and October
when the fishing season for this type of fish is at its very peak.)
Roller Skating Down Memory Lane
If I could turn back the clock
I would roller skate at Rocky Vale
Before the new parish church was built,
And the road to Regional Road split the valley,
Broke the heart of the spring that trickled slowly
Upon pebbled stones turned green with moss.
I would go to hear the early morning mass
At the 500-year-old Our Lady of Conception Chapel,
As the fishermen’s colourful luzzi*
Berthed at the bay with their fresh daily catch.
I would go to gently pick caterpillars
From Spinola Palace Gardens’ olive trees,
Admire their woolly green and yellow abdomen,
Preserve them in a glass lidded jar
Until they turned into cabbage white butterflies.
Sit on the front porch in the summer night
And watch the star-studded skies;
Try to distinguish stars from satellites.
Climb onto the roof garden to catch moths
Listen to crickets’ chirp and fiddle in the night
Stridulating a symphonic masterpiece.
Enjoy the cool fresh sea breeze,
Children’s voices singing nursery rhymes
When 8 o’clock was curfew time,
When the world still believed in innocence;
People were mostly genuine, never put on an act;
Cars, designers’ clothes and fashion were not important
As people’s feelings, daily bread and sinless souls.
If I could turn back the clock
If I could roller skate back in time,
To this valley of innocence
To a purely simplified and primitive life
Washed by rain water streams
Where I could wallow in the mossy green.
*Luzzi are traditional Maltese fishing boats
Paul the Meticulous Fisherman
Pawlu is-Sajjied, as he was nicknamed was a quiet lad.
Every Sunday morning, he would clad in a beige suit and tie,
shine his shoes with spit, like soldiers in the army.
He was neat, the reason for his nickname, Pawlu l-Fitt.
Meticulous in his work, he considered life was ridiculous.
His walk was a rhythmic sway of self confidence
stopping to observe the weather like all good fishermen.
It only seems like yesterday,
Pawlu was shouting himself hoarse: Lampuki friski, hajjin hajjin;
no one realized he was in deep crisis, deeper than the sea
from where he caught us fresh fish every day.
His luzzu, Santa Maria was berthed at Spinola Bay,
now it’s gone just like him leaving an empty space
with only a lonely buoy to mark its place.
Pawlu no longer shouts, Friski, hajjin hajjin:
and the mornings are drear without his yellow toothed smile.
When my dog ran out into the street one day
Pawlu gave chase and brought him back safe.
The Santa Maria was red, black and yellow,
painted in honour of St. Julian’s the village Belgian saint.
It would chug out from the bay, while the was moon rising
every evening for summery decades, as many as I can recollect,
rippling through the white light reflection of a dimming sunset.
Then, he would whistle an unknown tune
until his silhouette became united with dusk.
He lived with his old widowed mother, Giuzeppa;
everyone knew she dotted on him, her only son.
One day she came back from early morning mass
and found him hanging from the neck.
The rope was tied by a fisherman’s knot from the stairs’ railings.
The doctor came first, then Dun Karm, the Parish priest.
Pawlu left us suddenly without a warning sign;
now, he is only a ghostly memory lost in time
while the moon rises on an empty quiet bay.
Pawlu is-sajjied il fitt (Paul the meticulous fisherman)
Pawlu il-fitt (Paul the meticulous man)
Luzzu (traditional colourful Maltese fishing boat)
Luzzu, Santa Maria (the boat is named St. Mary)
Lampuki friski, hajjin, hajjin. (Fresh Dolphin fish, alive alive)
Friski, hajjin hajjin. (Fresh, alive alive)
Dun Karm (Fr. Charles)
For other contributions by Raymond Fenech Gonzi, please follow the link below:
Poetry in this post: © Raymond Fenech Gonzi
Published with the permission of Raymond Fenech Gonzi