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About the Author
Albanian-born writer Ani Gjika is the author and literary translator of eight books and chapbooks of poetry, among them Bread on Running Waters (Fenway Press, 2013), a finalist for the 2011 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Her translation from the Albanian of Luljeta Lleshanaku's Negative Space (New Directions and Bloodaxe Books, 2018) won an English PEN Award and was shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize, PEN America Award, and Best Translated Book Award. She is a graduate of Boston University's MFA program where she was a 2011 Robert Pinsky Global fellow, and GrubStreet's Memoir Incubator program, where she was a 2019 Pauline Scheer Fellow. Having taught creative writing at various universities in the U.S. and Thailand, Gjika currently teaches English as a Second Language at Framingham High School in Massachusetts.
With a lesser known original language, the more precious the gift of translation! Luljeta Lleshanaku's Negative Space offers a rare glimpse into contemporary Albanian poetry. Effortlessly and with crisp precision, Ani Gjika, herself a poet, has rendered into English, not only the poems in Negative Space, but also the eerie ambience which resonates throughout the book, the deep sense of impermanence that is one of the many consequences of growing up under severe political oppression. 'Negative space is always fertile.' Opening trauma's door, we're met by a tender and intelligent voice with stories illuminating existence in a shared humanity, thus restoring dignity. In a world fractured by terror and violence, Lleshanaku's poetry is infinitely exciting, soothing us, its citizens.-- "Griffin Prize Judges Citation"
Lleshanaku writes poetry that estranges everyday objects and images of people, imbuing them with a sense of wonder most would ignore or simply not see.--Sanam Shahmiri "Kenyon Review"
Celebrated Albanian writer Lleshanaku presents the domestic, its unseen labor and stabilizing force, as endangered by oppressive political regimes. But she also suggests that resistance begins at home, envisioning a revolution that empowers women most of all. Wry and self-aware.-- "Publishers Weekly"
Clarity can take many forms. One of them, at least in the poetry of Lleshanaku, results in aphoristic lines, evidence of hard-earned wisdom... Lleshanaku's movement from the ordinary to the profound, that assured intuitive leap, is handled without effort, without pretension, recalling the work of poets such as the Nobel-winning Polish author Wislawa Szymborska.-- "Rain Taxi"
Lleshanaku has a dizzying talent of capturing our notes of destruction. Wonderfully melancholic.--Nick Ripatrazone "The Millions"
Lleshanaku's work is so full of life and vivid detail that it rings with hope and a revivifying ambition.--George Szirtes "The Poetry Review"
Peculiar magic.-- "World Literature Today"
Twilit melancholy suffuses her Albania, where 'Soft rain falls like apostrophes in a conversation between two worlds, ' family trees are 'struck down by a bolt of lightning, ' and most days echo with 'a gray metallic loneliness.' These details coalesce to paint the Albania of her internal exile and, in the end, we feel blessed that Ms. Lleshanaku has invited us to 'the takeoffs and landings / on the runway of her soul.'--Dana Jennings
Luljeta Lleshanaku is an Albanian poet, born in Elbasan in 1968.--Michael Hofmann "London Review of Books"
Hers are certainly poems about history, politics, and power. But Lleshanaku is also original. When she turns her attention to love, the sense of human fate is unsparing. The tyrant's insistence that there is no private realm has the unintended effect of making it necessary to write powerful and durable poems.--Sean O'Brien "The Guardian"