History has seen many forms and movements of poetry but the best-known must surely be that of the Romantic Era. Boasting the likes of Keats and Lord Byron, romanticist poets focus on feelings, nature, beauty and imagination whilst rejecting Realism and social conventions.

Newly-published local author Joanne Bugeja reconciles the Romantic imagery, story-telling mode and diction with the more modern free form of expression. Confessions of a Burning Soul is a work of fiction. Nonetheless it seems to be written directly from the heart of the poet. She has created a book that revels in its exploration of love lamentations and controversial topics that include gay romance and sexual insinuations.

They say you never forget your one true love. Circumstances, mistakes and timing reasons sometimes leave us craving for a love that will never be. This is the main theme of Bugeja’s collection of poetry, which sees the persona fumbling to reach their dearest under different guises. Some recurring images, such as blue eyes, betrayal and a true love lost, suggest that the works might be loosely based on personal experience, therefore producing some repetitive details that make for a cohesive collection of poems, even despite the varying themes of the stories depicted.

In Tale of True Love’s Kiss (An Epic Gay Romance) the poet explores in action the idea of the lover who is the journey and not the destination, as the main character Nikolai follows Reina’s words of wisdom to get to his true love, rather than stopping to stay with her. He is also taught by a Wise Old Bird, in keeping with Romantic poetry’s personification of nature, that he should “Look for beauty in an unlikely place!” and “go beyond what is clearly visible.” It turns out to be an enlightened piece of advice for the hero of the tale.

Meanwhile in The Mannequin, the persona wonders at the beauty of what is essentially an object but that is as beautiful or handsome (we are not told whether it is a male or female) as a real person. The contrast to the ‘real deal’ is that the doll will never be tainted by the bruises of life. Yet in its static state, it is also destined to a life of no movement. This is probably my favourite of the poems, in part due to the originality of the subject matter, bizarrely human yet not so all at the same time.

Another favourite of mine is Make Me Your Song, which is in itself cleverly disguised into a rhythm of song and sounds like lyrics more than poetry. The repetitive use of “I wanna be” and “Baby” from popular culture music is fused into the descriptive of simple phrases that make up the picture of the obsessed lover that can’t help but admit their state of total surrender.

The poet regards Love as a lifeline and depicts life as irrelevant to the heart that has lost, constantly striving to get to that true love and refusing to ever give up faith. Her poetry gives a sense of illusion at times, in keeping with the sensation of dreams, which she looks to as a means of escape and salvation when all else fails. She seems to look for Hope where there is none.

The book might be concise, yet is abundantly heavy in its ideas and imagery that work best in the upbeat instances where happiness or dreams reign over the words. However, in the moments depicting pity, there is none of the poetry. After all, it is of Realism and pararhymes that Wilfred Owen once said that “The Poetry is in the pity.” Here the collection would have done well to leave those instances alone for an otherwise perfectly romantic take on life.

Confessions of a Burning Soul may be bought here.