Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Poets in Profile: Majlinda Bashllari

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Majlinda Bashllari

Majlinda Bashllari published her first poetry collection in Albania in 2007. Less than ten years later the Toronto-based poet has released her first English language collection, Love is a very long word (Guernica Editions). 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.

Today we welcome Majlinda to Open Book to take our Poets in Profile questionnaire, in which we ask some of our favourite poets to explore how they came to the craft, the poems that shaped them and what they get from the writing life.

She tells us about how weddings led her to poetry, getting inspiration from the radio and embracing natural selection with her poems.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Majlinda Bashllari:

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.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


“Andrra e jetës” — (The dream of life) by Ndre Mjeda. A very deep, philosophical poem from one of the Albanian National Awakening poets. A true masterpiece.


What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?


I wish I had written “A man in his life” by Yehuda Amichai and “True love” by Wislawa Szymborska.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


The daily morning news on CBC radio on my way to work.


What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?


I put it aside for a while. Then I try to revive it. If it’s still not working I simply select it all and press delete. Sometimes it’s best to go with the logic of natural selection.


What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?


“Open Closed Open” by Yehuda Amichai.


What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?


The best thing is the intellectual pleasure found in connecting the dots in the dark. The worst is the odd look I tend to get when I admit that I write poems.

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.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

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