2013 DUDAJ Publishing House, Tirana, Albania: "Poeti shqiptar sipas studiuesve ndërkombëtar dhe vendas” / a study book on Jeton Kelmendi's art / by prof Dr Irena Gjoni

Illyrian in Love

The Albanian literature is not well known in Poland, although it has been made accessible for the readers by its translators, Dorota Horodyska and Mazllum Saneja. Thanks to Horodyska’s translations, the Poles may be familiar with the best works of the prose by Ismail Kadare, for example. Among her translations there have also appeared the poems by the Albanian poet, Llujety Lleshanaku, who in 2012 has been nominated for the main prize of the “European Poet of Freedom” festival.

Mazllum Saneja who, first of all, tirelessly spreads the Polish high poetic voice, carried through Albanian language, is the author of the anthology “It’s Not Too Late For Love: The Anthology of The Albanian Poetry of the XX Century”. This is the first such broad volume of the Albanian poetry in Polish.

Thanks to Mazllum Saneja, who translated a few of my poems into Albanian, in 2011, I was invited to the poetry festival „Ditet e Naimit” in Macedonia. There, among many interesting poets, I met Jeton Kelmendi, the poet from Kosovo, whose chosen set of poems I have translated into Polish (via English in Peter Tase’s translation). There must be something up with love as a topic of the Albanian poetry, I guess, and surely not accidentally Mazllum Saneja gave his anthology a “loving” title.

Jeton Kelmendi is a poet of love. The themes of his poetry are sensuality and beauty with lyrical figures like a girl, eyes, night, touching, nakedness, a tongue, a kiss, a look. This is the poetry of carnality and enchantment, genuine and true. A beautiful girl in the poems by Kelmendi is also a metaphor of poetry and of “Love Nineveh”, the integral element of the lastingness of art. There is no permanence without beauty, Kelmendi seems to keep saying, the poet, who in the real world, as a veteran of Kosovo war, has painfully learned the antipodes of beauty and of happiness. That’s why, as a survivor, he has gone into raptures over beauty as in the accurate and deliberate tautology of the title of the poem “The Beauty of Beautifulness”.


What a beautiful girl?

What a beautiful Verse?

How lucky is beauty

In the formally strong poem “How to Baptize You”, love for a woman, infatuation, seem so pervasive and platonic, that the loving man becomes the lover, the father and the godfather, all in one. And maybe even he becomes God, who is wondering how to call his human being, all the same, trying to name this woman by a holy name.

In the erotic poem “Nudo”, the poet is ready to give everything, even his tongue, the best he has, to his beloved. The tongue plays here a few roles. It’s the language of the poet, the native tongue of the Albanian and an instrument of kissing. In such poems, like “How to Baptize You” and “Nudo”, Jeton Kelmendi achieves masterly conciseness in the essence of the erotica, of poetry and innocence.

With no one I would change
The language

But today with you I will change it
One hour
Until it touches the end of the word
I would say everything
In a nude fashion
Just like the first kiss

The true world of love is desired and precious all the more as nearby „evil eyes”, blackness, the sleepless night and the “other poem” are lurking, where distrust, “stone tongue”, “unnatural landscape” live. In the poems “If The Night Catches The Dream” or “The Dreams Inside the Wall”, I read pain of the immigrant, a stranger to the western culture (Jeton Kelmendi lives and works in Brussels).

The affirming love and beauty doesn’t lose watchfulness also for other reasons. The native landscape, early memory, the “weight” of the own Albanianness, doesn’t let the lyrical “I” totally trust the world, which was supposed to be the love world, but turned out “a bit” different. Kelmendi seems to prove that in the poem “Illyrian”, which is like “an ode” to his own country.


There cannot be seen the shining side
As if
There cannot be measured the trachea
Is swallowing everything
For the spirit of the word
You are
A sub substance of forgiveness
Beyond the ear and the throat
One hundred and one years
You are


I hope that in the future Jeton Kelmendi's poetry will appear in Polish in a direct translation from its original Albanian.

Krystyna Lenkowska