Lightning from the Depths: An Anthology of Albanian Poetry

If a people

Have no poets

And no poetry of their own

For a National Anthology

Then treachery and barking

Will do the trick

With these words, a challenge is laid down in this new volume of Albanian poetry. Albania, however, has a dynamic tradition of literature. Lightning from the Depths is the first English collection to present the full range of Albanian verse.

Albanian literature has had many lives. The early Christian traditions disappeared as Islam and the Ottoman Empire took over. Muslim literature, too, withered when the nation strove to become an independent European country. The beginnings of a modern tradition were quashed by the Stalinists. All along this rocky path, poets have turned the political strife, poverty, and isolation their nation has often experienced into culture, both celebrating and questioning the society in which they live. Lightning from the Depths opens readers' eyes to a new political and cultural world populated artists who can spin despair into poetry.

"An anthology purports to make selective decisions on what to include. It presupposes a grand tradition of the medium. One would think then, that the hard-scrabble Albanians would present a meagre offering for such a task. A people who until only a half-century ago had neither a national archive nor a university, they were deemed largely illiterate due to invasion, poverty, isolation and marginalization. Think again and otherwise. Elsie and Mathie-Heck provide a compendium of fifty poets spanning six centuries, with an unexpected range of styles that is as startling as the image of lightning chosen for the title of their book. The reader will find subtlety, sophistication and strength in its pages, and as with all poetry, the seduction of the strange and the familiar." --A. E. Liolin

"Dedicated translators like Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck are often the only gatekeepers to the literary culture of "a country as small as this one." Lightning from the Depths serves as a wonderful reminder of the state of ignorant impoverishment we would find ourselves in without their noble efforts." --Chantal Wright, editor, Transcript, the European Internet Review of Books and Writing