*Shortlist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize*
"Language arrived fragmentary / split in syllables / spasmodic / like code in times of war," writes Luljeta Lleshanaku in the title poem to her powerful new collection Negative Space. In these lines, personal biography disperses into the history of an entire generation that grew up under the oppressive dictatorship of the poet's native Albania. For Lleshanaku, the "unsaid, gestures" make up the negative space that "gives form to the woods / and to the mad woman--the silhouette of goddess Athena / wearing a pair of flip-flops / and an owl on top of a shoulder." It is the negative space "that sketched my onomatopoeic profile / of body and shadow in an accidental encounter." Lleshanaku instills ordinary objects and places--gloves, used books, acupuncture needles, small-town train stations--with subtle humor and profound insight, as a child discovering a world in a grain of sand.
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About the Author
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
Language that's at once immediate and new: a black and white floor is 'like a mouth of broken teeth, a baleen of darkness / sieving out new human destinies.' Urgent and original.--Nina MacLaughlin
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.
Lleshanaku has a dizzying talent of capturing our notes of destruction. Wonderfully melancholic.--Nick Ripatrazone
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.
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
Lleshanaku's work is so full of life and vivid detail that it rings with hope and a revivifying ambition.--George Szirtes