Gjoka’s first book of poems in English offers readers a rare chance to see the small moments of life through another’s eyes.
This latest offering from Gjoka contains poems that cover such topics as birth, death, lovemaking and what it means to be human. While readers may not connect to every poem, most will find something that resonates with them. The author offers a supreme command of language, image and metaphor, and readers will find themselves lost in those poems that touch them deeply. He is versatile in his poetic structure, alternating between moments of breeziness and brutality without sacrificing the beauty of language or the intensity of his images. Though translated from the original Albanian (with the original text appearing on adjacent pages), Gjoka’s poems retain much of their lyrical and rhythmic qualities; “The old stems, / Old and dying / Have burst into new flowers, / Vanished stars that left space / Long ago” (“Love the Scents of Every Flower”). Readers of foreign literature will understand the changes that take place during translation, since poetry contains many idioms and difficult to convey allusions. However, most of these poems seem to retain their power in English, and allow readers to view the world through the lens of a different culture; “Some say there is a snake / We must slay / Filled with venom of religion / Of some other distant lands, / Of some poor, unhappy people / Scattered through some oil fields” (“Here So Close to the Capitol”). Readers may be turned off initially by the fact that these poems are translated, but a taste of what the author offers should help them over their hesitation and allow them to embrace these lines. Poetry buffs will likely find something to treasure in this collection and readers who find themselves drawn to its rhythms and images should welcome this work into their library.
Sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh and often insightful, Gjoka’s poems take readers on a journey, leading them to new insights and helping them see the world through a unique perspective.