The Maltese poetess passed away on New Year’s Day in 1975.
Mary Meylak, the first recorded female Maltese and Gozitan poet, was born on this day 118 years ago, in Victoria, Gozo.
But who was Mary Meylak?
Meylak was the only female voice during Malta’s Romantic literary era, which dates back to the early 20th century. While different spellings of her name exist across time and different publications, ‘Mary Meylak’ is the spelling that academics agree that she preferred.
Meylak started writing poetry at the age of 25 in 1930, publishing her first set of collected works, Pleġġ il-Hena (A Pledge to Joy) in 1945.
Her bibliography includes two volumes of essays called Nirraġunaw u Nitbissmu (Let’s Reason and Smile); three novels: Nokkla Sewda (Black Locks), San Nikola tal-Venturi (St Nicholas of Venturi) and It-Tewmin tal-Birgu (The Twins of Vittoriosa). Additionally, she has also penned two operas and some operettas.
During a commemorative event held by L-Akkademja tal-Malti some years ago, late Maltese poet Oliver Friggieri explained that Meylak stood out amongst her peers in several ways.
For instance, she would give the world a fantastical lens in her writing, rather than the existential and historical angst of the time. While her contemporaries were generally influenced by Greek and Italian literary forms, Meylak unknowingly wrote in a manner akin to Arabic poetry.
Unfortunately, not all of her work has been discovered, as local academics have been searching for Meylak’s unedited and unpublished manuscripts for years.
These efforts are still ongoing, with internationally acclaimed writer and academic Immanuel Mifsud raising awareness about these missing manuscripts at a talk delivered last May, and in a Facebook post commemorating Meylak’s birthday this morning.
The Maltese poetess passed away on New Year’s Day in 1975, at the age of 70.
Did you know about our first Maltese Poetess?
The National Archives of Malta/Facebook, Klabb Kotba Maltin/Facebook, Immanuel Mifsud/Facebook