Open Book Toronto recently interviewed Majlinda Bashllari as part of their “Poets in Profile” series. The article for this interview begins with a description of Majlinda’s poetry collection entitled Love is a very long word, stating “the collection draws on both the lyrical nature of the Albanian poetry tradition as well as modern, innovative techniques, to explore the tension between love and freedom”.
Majlinda discusses her various sources of inspiration during the interview. When Majlinda is asked “Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?” She replies, “Two separate things contributed to this: experiencing the beauty of Albanian weddings and facing the sorrow of leaving my country. During my childhood, I was in love with weddings. They were true spectacles — a combination of lyricism and drama. Ordinary men and women that I knew — family friends or cousins — instantly became transformed into great artists. A magic thing. I was dreaming of making up lyrics and rhymes, and becoming one of them. The second experience took place many years later. As cliché as it may sound, it was the sorrow of leaving my country and adjusting to a new life — a process which was very emotional and difficult for me”.
She also states that the first poem she remembers being affected by is “Andrra e jetës” — (The dream of life) by Ndre Mjeda”. She calls this poem “a very deep, philosophical poem from one of the Albanian National Awakening poets. A true masterpiece”. When asked which poem she wishes that she had written, she replies by stating “I wish I had written ‘A man in his life’ by Yehuda Amichai and ‘True love’ by Wislawa Szymborska”. Although Majlinda’s poems are inspired by the work of these poets, she also states that her most unlikely source of inspiration is the daily morning news on CBC radio.
Love is a very long word explores the parallel, ambiguous realms of freedom and love – much coveted yet unnatural states of the human mind. Combining the tradition of Balkan lyricism with narrative modernist techniques, these bold poems witness the cross-cultural world of their subjects – from wounds to hope, struggle to wry triumph.
Born in Albania, Majlinda Bashllari’s first poetry collection, Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home), was published in Tirana, Albania (Morava, 2007). Bashllari’s work has appeared in numerous Albanian art and literature magazines and in Albanian anthologies of essays and short stories. Love is a very long word is her first English-language collection of poems. She lives with her family in Toronto.