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This review is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

Rhythmical Lostness DORIS KAREVA, Shape of Time, translated by Tiina Aleman (Arc Publications) £9.89
Six Slovak Poets, edited and introduced by Igor Hochel, translated by John Minahane (Arc Publications) £9.89
LULJETA LLESHANAKU, Haywire (Bloodaxe) £9.95

The Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku's first British collection is a revelation. The poems are peculiar and sonorous in these translations, full of objects and souls, transformed and given wings in Chagall-like metaphor. Her grand and melancholic opening poem 'Memory' sets the tone for this remarkable collection. Here are the first few lines:

There is no prophecy, only memory.
What happens tomorrow
has happened a thousand years ago
the same way, to the same end -
and does my ancient memory
say that your false memory
is the history of the featherhearted bird
transformed into a crow atop a marble mountain?

Lleshanaku's poetry essentially describes Albanian rural life. Albania, remote and for so long an outcast in Europe, has in Lleshanaku's poetry a static, timeless quality. Her characters are hopeless, listless drunkards and dreamers, the disappointed, the betrayed, the forgotten. There is nothing transcendental in the life they live - even life beyond death has no interest for them. They live and die amongst the detritus: fabric, pins, scissors, bottles, chairs, knives, belts. The pared back and unchanging landscapes of a provincial town in a provincial country are Lleshanaku's metaphysical settings, and the authority of her poetic voice gives these surroundings absolute authenticity.

But this is very far from social realism of any sort. Lleshanaku's poetic language begins here and then departs on its own brilliant and essentially abstract journey, repeatedly binding folkloric metaphor into ...

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