* My eyes, dense night where you alone drink. My eyes, garden of sand where you alone whisper My eyes, windows open wide where you alone cry out. My eyes, abandoned port where you alone are leaving
By Gëzim Hajdari
Translated Ian Seed
From Bitter Grass (Shearsman Books, 2020)
Widely recognized as one of the major poets of our times, Gëzim Hajdari was born in 1957 in Hajdaraj, Albania. He acquired his early education in his home town, trained as an accountant, then graduated in Albanian Language and Literature at the A. Xhuvani University in Elbasan and in Modern Letters at La Sapienza University in Rome.
In 1991, Hajdari was among the founders of the opposition Democratic and Republican parties of the town of Lushnje, and was elected Republican district secretary. In the course of his intense political activity and his work as a journalist, Hajdari often spoke out against the crimes and abuses perpetrated by the old Hoxha nomenklatura and by the post-communist government. For this and other reasons, following repeated threats, he was forced to leave Albania in 1992.
Since 1993 Hajdari, who writes both in Albanian and Italian, has published many books, among which are thirteen collections of poetry and several translations, including I canti dei nizàm (a collection of songs of the Albanian soldiers conscripted into the Ottoman army). Translated into several languages, his poetry is the subject of three major monographs to date and has been awarded a number of prizes. For his literary merits, Hajdari has been granted honorary citizenship of Frosinone, the Italian town south of Rome where he has lived in exile since 1992.
Ian Seed teaches Creative Writing at the University of Chester. He has lived and worked in different countries, including Italy, France and Poland. Seed’s first full-length collection, Anonymous Intruder, was published by Shearsman in 2009. Shearsman have also published his collections Shifting Registers (2011) and Makers of Empty Dreams (2014). Chapbooks include Sleeping with the Ice Cream Vendor (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2012), Threadbare Fables (Like This Press, 2012) and Amore Mio (Flax, 2011).
Photo by Lisa Kalloo