“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.
Luljeta Lleshanaku was born in Elbasan, Albania. She grew up under house arrest during Enver Hoxha's Stalinist regime. Lleshanaku has worked as a lecturer, literary magazine editor, journalist, and screenwriter, and is currently the research director at Tirana's Institute of Studies of Communist Genocide. She is the author of eight poetry collections published in Albania. Her books have received many national and international awards and have been translated into several languages. New Directions also publishes her collections Child of Nature and Fresco: Selected Poems.
Ani Gjika is an Albanian-born poet, writer, and literary translator, and the author of Bread on Running Waters.
Katrine Øgaard Jensen is a writer and translator, most recently of Third-Millennium Heart by Ursula Andkjær Olsen. She is one of the founding editors of EuropeNow, a journal of research and art at Columbia University, and a returning judge for the Best Translated Book Award (Fiction 2015, Poetry 2016, Poetry 2017). She previously served as editor in chief of the Columbia Journal and blog editor at Asymptote and Words Without Borders.