Posts Tagged ‘kristal vilenice prize’

Luljeta Lleshanaku on Writing Behind the Walls

February 18, 2010

The Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku, who will read at dlr Poetry Now this year, has been giving a couple of readings in the US lately which give a hint of what we can look forward to on Friday, March 25th; at the University of Nevada’s Black Mountain Institute last month, she was very aptly introduced as a writer of poems which are “vivid, bold, sometimes actually linguistically shocking.” Lleshanaku, who was born in 1968, grew up under virtual house arrest because of her family’s opposition to the Stalinist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. When she did eventually get to attend university, in Tirana, after the fall of communism, she brought with her a huge store of poems, and quickly began to publish – four collections between 1992 and 1999. As you’d imagine, her poetry is pervaded by a sense of the oppression and the stark difficulties and realities through which she lived as a young woman and as a young poet. In Nevada last month, Lleshanaku talked about her experience of growing up, and starting to write, in an environment in which freedom of expression was impossible; “We only need somebody to hear us,” she said. “We only need somebody to tell our stories [to]”. While she could not publish, or attend university, she read – and much of what she read belonged to the category of “yellow books”, those books which were banned in communist Albania but which, nevertheless, still circulated, still found their way to readers, because readers needed them: “If you eat books, you will eat yourself, little by little,” Lleshanaku said, in a fascinating line.

In Nevada, Lleshanaku read from her new collection, Child of Nature, which has just been published by New Directions (that link allows you to read a preview of the collection, including a couple of her poems, “Winter Prelude” and “Narration in the Third Person”). She was the winner of the 2009 Kristal Vilenice Prize, past recipients of which have included Adam Zagajewski and Zbigniew Herbert. You can hear her reading at dlr Poetry Now on Friday, March 26th at 6.30pm, when she will appear with Justin Quinn and Philip Gross.