words | Elena Scialtiel
Fresh from his appearance at the Gibunco Literary Festival, local poet and singer songwriter Gabriel Moreno is applying the finishing touches to ‘Jeremy Spoken’, his ninth book expected to be published in early 2017.
Two years in the making, this account of war and hope can be inscribed in the ‘mixed-media genre’ that blends poetry, narrative and playwriting, and it is inspired by Gabriel’s acquaintance with two veterans of the ‘Afghan disaster’.
“The book includes three forms of creative writing” Gabriel explains. “The first one is the epistolary poem transcribing the letters commissioned by the soldiers to be written for their loved ones left behind in England. The main character is Jeremy, who writes these letters out of need and benevolence to his brothers.”
The epistolary is intertwined with theatrical dialogue: “I use the voices of soldiers who died during the Afghan war to talk about topics such as death, war, poetry and love in the form of a play, whose characters also talk about Jeremy.” The third form is the epic narrative poem: “I use ancient forms of poetry to narrate the action, what actually happens to Jeremy throughout the plot.”
The reader gets to know the protagonist through the poems he is commissioned to write. “His whole spirit is quite elusive and undefined but, in a way, we suspect that he, perhaps, is the filter for all the minds around him,” so Gabriel describes his hero – or anti-hero – adding that the book’s message is that darkness is sometimes the best place to connect to your inner core and be the person you always wanted to be.
Jeremy was born in a derelict housing estate in Hull with depressing life expectations. After his best friend commits suicide, Jeremy joins the army and is deployed to Afghanistan. During his training he reads Wilfred Owen, a First World War poet, and starts writing poetry himself to comfort his fellow fusiliers, whose suffering he witnesses in Afghanistan. “Jeremy becomes a beacon of hope in the battalion, but not everyone agrees with him or his poetry.”
Gabriel’s previous endeavours in literature sum up so far to three books in English (‘The Hollow Tortoise’, 2012, ‘Nights in Mesogeois’, 2014, ‘The Moon and the Sparrow’, 2015), and five in Spanish, published between 2006 and 2010 in Barcelona by Omicron (‘Londres y el Susurro de las Amapolas’, ‘Voices from the Blue’, ‘Cartas a Miranda’, ‘La Barca Enterrada’, ‘Identidad y Deseo’).
In his Literary Festival lecture, Gabriel spoke about his literary bilingualism, focusing on his work ‘The Moon and the Sparrow’. He told how the interaction of both languages has influenced his life and creativity, and how “the tension between the two led to most of the rhythmic, metric and conceptual content of the book”, described in the website www.gabrielmoreno.co.uk as the ‘tale of a journey into an untamable Mediterranean psyche where passion and the rational mind are battling it out.’
His inspiration comes from people, nature, music and life in general: “I feel one must be the open lens of a camera at all times and ‘film’ all that one sees, feels, smells and hears. I try to use reality as my pool of thoughts and inspirational ideas.” His poetry, music and spoken word are influenced by singer songwriters like Genoese Fabrizio De André, Sicilian Franco Battiato, Frenchman George Brassens, Belgian Jacques Brel and Cuban Silvio Rodriguez. His favourite poets are Federico Garcia Lorca, Wallace Stevens, Constantine Cavafy and William Butler Yeats. He has been writing poetry and composing lyrics and songs for more than twenty-five years. He composes the music for his songs and arranges it, although his first album Love and Decadence (Amber Records 2016) couldn’t happen without the collaboration of Denis Valerga, Norbert Toth and Pablo Yupton to the arrangements of melodies and chord structure.
When he was about fourteen, Gabriel and his friend Paul Isola borrowed a guitar from his neighbour’s house and started writing songs together. Two years later, Gabriel was in the band The Arrival with Peter Montegriffo and Adrian Pisarello. “We had lots of headline gigs around the Rock, but in 1995, I left for university in the UK and did not perform again in Gibraltar until 2011, when I launched my poetry book, ‘Identidad y Deseo’ at the Fine Art Gallery in Casemates Square. That was a memorable night, as all the art and culture personalities of Gibraltar were there, as well as my family and friends. After that, I performed poetry for the Calentita street food festival in 2013 and 2014. In June 2016, I was invited for a music and poetry night in Sacarello’s with poet and playwright Rebecca Faller. That was a total success and led to my set at the Music Festival last September and my participation in the Literary Festival.”
Gabriel is currently based in London where he performs music and poetry. He is the lead singer and guitarist of the project band Quivering Poets (Pablo Yupton on electric guitar, Adam Beattie on double bass, Pablo Campos on percussion, Barbara Bartz on violin). “We play my songs all over the alternative folk scene, based on the music of big singer songwriters and troubadours such as Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave, in legendary venues such as the Jamboree, the Green Note, the Betsey Trotwood, or the Troubadour. I also run two music nights, the Lantern Society and the Jonestown Sessions.”
Born in Gibraltar in 1977, Gabriel feels Gibraltarian above any other nationality: “Even though all the terms employed to define identities and communities are a figment of the imagination and fall short in describing the nuances of the group, Gibraltarian is the term which best defines me – and my dream of me.”