Albania: a nation of poets

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 14, 2018 10:33

Albania:  a nation of poets

Story Highlights

  • A World Meeting of Poetry was held in Strasbourg, where poets, publishers, writers, scholars, students, librarians discussed the importance of poetry for democracy and its preservation, and for society. A special panel held by translator Fotaq Andrea was dedicated to Albania, as a nation of poets.

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At the European Capital Strasbourg, was held from Nov. 19-24 the annual World Meeting of Poetry organised by the Mots-Arts Association in collaboration with the European Council. The event held at the Municipality of the city and hosted by Strasbourg University professor Enrique Uribe, gathered poets, writers, scholars and researchers, professors and publishers from five continents in a conference titled ‘’Poetry, what do you have to tell us?’’.


The forum was organized in various panels with its speakers. Along with poets, publishers, professors, etc., were also librarians, students and pupils who wanted to discuss the period named ‘’Crisis of society, crisis of poetry’’. This comes in the face of the human apathy for safeguarding the world democracy and peace, for their cultivation and preservation through democratic institutions, and people’s unification and collaboration, by declining any sort of fatalizm, and loss of faith in the European democracy and integration.

In the concluding manifesto titled ‘’Beware Europe, Europe for Europeans,’’ it was pointed out that poets and poetry have a power to revive the faith in democratic values. The poetic passion doesn’t contain itself only in a verse, but we experience it everyday as citizens of this world, and poetry remains essentially inseparable from the notion of freedom and faith in the human society.

Among the many poets and scholars from the various participating countries, a special panel was reserved for Albania. The panel held by translator and Francophone Fotaq Andrea, who on Nov. 23 held the lecture ‘’Albanians: a poet nation’’ at Villa Schutzenberger, and then on Nov. 24 at Cinema Odysee introduced two Albanian poets, democracy martyr Havzi Nela, and Moikom Zeqo, with translated poetry specially for this event.

In the lecture held by Andrea, he made a short introduction and recap of the Albanian poetry through centuries focused on three stages, Renaissance, post-Renaissance, and contemporary poetry, with an output to the similarities between the Albanian poetry and European one, and especially with French poetry. Andrea pointed out an instance when French writer Lamartin wrote to Arberesh writer Jeronim De Rada that ‘’poetry came from your shores, and thus shall return there.’’

Another instance when Albanians were held as a poet nation, was in an Italian article from 1940s which was titled ‘’Albanians, a people of poets and soldiers.’’ Later in 1989, Xavier Deniau, former secretary of state and general secretary of the Francophone parliamentary ensemble, wrote a dedicated piece for Albania, in which he pointed out that the ‘’Albanian homeland […] is created by poets.’’ Another contribution came by Alain Bosquet and Michel Metais who introduced Ismail Kadare to the French public in 1970s and thus the Albanian poetic spirit through centuries and for that period (communist regime), leading to two translated poems of Kadare to be published in high-school book anthologies for years to come.

A list of twelve Albanian poets were chosen for this event, with French-translated selected poetry. The poets were both classic and contemporary, such as N. Frasheri, Migjeni, Çajupi, L. Poradeci, D. Agolli, I. Kadare, F. Arapi, Xh. Spahiu, M. Ahmeti, M. Velo, P. Shllaku, D. Çomo. A special commemoration was made for democracy martyr Nela, for whom was spoken as mentioned on Nov. 24, and a poem titled ‘’When I die’’ was published online in the event’s website.

A special notice on the first event was made to the oral poetry as an important part of the tradition preserved and conveyed through centuries, in comparison to the more savant and cultivated written poetry. A volume of the ‘’Epos of the Brave (Kreshnike)’’ was also published in French in 1968. The ‘’Epos of the Brave’’ is a cultural heritage for Albania as it holds old songs originating since 11-12th century, the songs passed orally through generations and to be sang with the traditional instrument lahuta (lute). These songs have a historical connotation which talk about the coming of the Slavs in the Albanian territories during centuries 6-8th, and Andrea drew a similarity with the French epos.

Andrea also mentioned that an important historical attribute are the oral songs of the Albanians of Greece, Italy (Arbereshet) and of Kosovo. He said that these songs aren’t written down because during the Ottoman Empire the written local language was forbidden. However, they are precious to our history and culture as they tell of our long history and literary heritage with myths and legends preserved through centuries, which express all the suffrage endured and are an encouraging reminder to our strength. These songs are also a proof of Albania’s antiquity, being as old as our unique language.

The characteristics and stages

The first characteristic is that of patriotism. The oral poetry has accompanied the Albanian renaissance and served the shaping of the national identity which with the help of poetry brought the independence in November 1912. Analogue to that, the second characteristic of oral poetry it served was that of emancipation and bringing closer the European thought, progressing to the establishment of various poetic schools and introducing modernity.

The fourth characteristic arising was that of the enriching of the language and literary, artistic expression. And the last but not least, was the turning of the cultivated poetry as a populist poetry, keeping alive the poetic spirit of the nation.

The first stage of the development of the Albanian poetry starts with the Albanian renaissance, star1544341016_2afisheAndreaFotaqting with poet Jeronim De Rada in 1840s until 1920s, with characterising themes of heroes and nationalistic sentiments. The second stage starts during the progressive wind in 1920-30s with the realistic and critical poetry which culminates with Migjeni. Migjeni, except being of the first modern poets of Albania, he also introduced the free verse in poetry and the poetic prose.

The third stage lasted for about 50 years and corresponds to the closing and hermetization of our country to the communist regime. The poetry in this era was clothed by the official rules, and freedom of expression was forbidden. About 200 intellectuals were persecuted or killed for their free verses which diverged from the political requirements and propaganda.

The fourth stage corresponds to contemporary times with modern poetry, characterized by free verse, freedom of expression, trying to reach a poetical autonomy and creative abstraction. Such poets are Kadare, F. Arapi, Agolli, Petro Marko, A. Shkreli, M. Camaj, E. Hatibi, M. Ahmeti, Ali Podrimja, Zeqo etc..

Andrea said that the participants showed an immense interest in his presentation. During the recital of the poem ‘’When I die’’ from Havzi Nela, some people cried. Andrea said that those tears ‘’were like roses, with a global symbolism, in the grave of Nela.’’ In that sense the people were deeply impressed by the tragedy suffered from the communist era, and how poetry kept rising afterwards and keeping the nation’s spirit alive, poetry never ceasing to inspire.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 14, 2018 10:33