Posts Tagged ‘new directions press’

First Review: Child of Nature, by Luljeta Lleshanaku

February 23, 2010

Here’s the Publishers Weekly review, just published, of Luljeta Lleshanaku’s new collection, Child of Nature (New Directions Press):

Child of Nature Luljeta Lleshanaku, trans. from the Albanian by Henry Israeli and Shpresa Qatipi. New Directions, $13.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1847-4

“Two people form a habit,” writes Lleshanaku; “Three people make a story”: this harshly memorable collection (her second in English translation) overflows with stories, incidents of suffering, worry, and hardship related in verse fragments, in mysterious details, in horrifying or revealing asides. Albania, Lleshanaku’s native land, suffered through decades of poverty under a Stalinist dictatorship, then suffered again in the chaos and uneven development that came after 1989. Her tableaux of exhausted villagers, smuggled books, and constant frustration reflect her nation, caught between the Third World and the First: village eccentrics, exhausted mothers, and lost children stroll and scatter through her bedraggled gardens, looking up for airplanes overhead. The poems also reflect her self-critical, alert, and skeptical personality. “Monday feels like an odd shoe/ its other chewed by the dog tied at the gate,” one seven-part long poem begins; within her childhood memories, “Broken toys were my playthings.” In one of many poems about Albanian families trapped in collapsing small towns, a mountain in the distance offers eternal, impossible promises of better lives, while the citizens work themselves to death: “The electrocardiogram of sweat dried in the body/ spreads from shirt to shirt/ contagious as a flame.” (Feb.)

As mentioned last week, you can read an excerpt from Child of Nature online here, and you can also follow New Directions, one of the great independent US presses, on twitter for regular updates on Luljeta and other authors.

Luljeta Lleshanaku reads at dlr Poetry Now on Friday March 25th at 6.30pm with Justin Quinn and Philip Gross.  

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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.