Luljeta Lleshanaku was born in Elbasan, Albania in 1968. Under Enver Hoxha's Stalinist dictatorship, she grew up under house arrest. Lleshanaku was not permitted to attend college or publish her poetry until the weakening and eventual collapse of the regime in the early 1990s. She was eventually able to study Albanian philology and literature at the University of Tirana, and later attended the MFA Program at Warren Wilson College, USA. She has worked as a school teacher, literary magazine editor, screenwriter, television author and currently as a research director at the Institute of Studies of Communist Genocide in Albania. She was a fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 1999, and received a fellowship from Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2008-2009. Bloodaxe published her first UK edition, Haywire: New & Selected Poems, a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation, in 2011, drawing on two editions published in the US by New Directions, Fresco: Selected Poems (2002) and Child of Nature (2010), as well as a selection of newer work, and it was shortlisted for the Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for poetry translated from a European language into English. A new selection, Negative Space, was published in 2018 from Bloodaxe in the UK and New Directions in the US, drawing on two recent collections published in Albania, Almost Yesterday (2012) and Homo Antarcticus (2015). This was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. Ani Gjika's translation from the Albanian of Negative Space was on the Griffin Poetry Prize 2019 International shortlist. Luljeta Lleshanaku has won several prestigious awards for her poetry, including PEN Albania 2016 (from Albanian PEN Center), National Prize 'Silver Pen, 2000' for poetry, and the International Kristal Vilenica Prize (International Festival of Literature, Slovenia 2009). She was one of the winners of Prishtina Book Fair, 2013 (Kosovo); the winner of KULT Prize, 2013 in Albania for the best book of the year and was awarded 'Author of the Year' by the Publishers Association of Tirana Book Fair, 2013. Her second American collection, Child of Nature, was one of 2011 BTBA (Best Translated Book Award) poetry finalists. In 2012 she was one of two finalists in Poland for their European Poet of Freedom prize. She has published seven books of poetry in Albanian, and so far seven poetry collections translated into other languages, including Antipastoral (Italy, 2006), Kinder der natur (Austria, 2010), Dzieci natury (Poland, 2011) and Lunes en Siete Dias (Seleccion) (Spain, 2017). She has given readings in America, Europe, Britain (including Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and Poetry Parnassus at London's Southbank Centre) and in Ireland at the Poetry Now festival in Dun Laoghaire and the Cuirt International Festival of Literature.
'Luljeta Lleshanaku is a pioneer of Albanian poetry. She speaks with a completely original voice, her imagery and language always unexpected and innovative. Her poetry has little connection to poetic styles past or present in America, Europe, or the rest of the world. And, interestingly enough, it is not connected to anything in Albanian poetry either. We have in Lleshanaku a completely original poet' - Peter Constantine. 'Luljeta Lleshanaku's poems take place in a melancholy landscape of mountain villages, chestnut trees, and collapsing futures where spring kills solitude with its solitudeA" and the only emotional expression not considered a sign of weakness is impatience. The place of her poems is like a zero point that can only look out from itself in all directions at once. But the poet looks inward beyond paradox, and, instead of judgment, she finds recognition. In Lleshanaku's work, geography and soul are charted on the same map. The rhythms of her new poems are expertly managed to enact vulnerability and withdrawal. Her lines stretch out and suddenly retract into fragments with the sensitivity of snail horns.' - Forrest Gander, citation for the 2009 International Kristal Vilenica Prize 'These impressive poems carry a poignance much like the first buds of spring, a mark of survival and insistent life. In this bewildering human world such articulate determination proves again our common faith. Luljeta Lleshanaku speaks to us one and all' - Robert Creeley