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Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck

Azem Shkreli. Blood of the quill
Selected poetry from Kosova in a bilingual, English-Albanian edition.
Edited and translated by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck

Green Integer 173

ISBN 978-1-933382-91-3
Green Integer, Los Angeles 2008
264 pp.


    Azem Shkreli was born on February 10, 1938, in the village of Shkrel in the Rugova highlands near Peja in western Kosova. He lost his mother when he was only two years old, and was brought up by his grandmother who also died when he was still a young boy. Nevertheless, he had a secure and stable childhood. After his elementary education in the village of Nakëll, he attended secondary school in Prishtina, from which he graduated in 1961. He then went on to study at the university in Prishtina and graduated in 1965 with a diploma in Albanian language and literature.
    As a student, Shkreli had begun writing for the daily newspaper Rilindja and served as secretary for the Kosova Writers Union. From 1960 to 1975 he worked as director of the People’s Provincial Theatre (Teatri Popullor Krahinor) in Prishtina. For a time, he was also a member of the executive board of the Writers Union of Yugoslavia. In 1975 Shkreli became director of the Kosova Film Studios (“Kosovafilm”) - a post he held until he was expelled by the new Serb administration in 1991.
    The poet was intensely preoccupied with the well-being of Kosova. His primary desire was to devote himself to the cause of his people’s basic human rights and liberation. He spent some time in Germany in the 1990s, as his wife was ill and needed medical treatment there which she could not receive in Kosova. He chose, nonetheless, not to stay abroad with his family, but to return to Prishtina, where he lived alone. This was a difficult decision for him to make, but he knew that he had no other choice but to honour it. When invited for a three-month visit to Villa Waldberta in Bavaria in 1993, he grew restless and permitted himself to stay for barely six weeks.

“...For four nights I have endured a stone,
Kosova, dripping away”
(from the poem Villa Waldberta)

    Shkreli toiled tirelessly, and never lost sight of the goal of freedom and independence for his fellow Kosovar Albanians. Tragically, he did not live to see his dream come to fruition. On May 25, 1997, he passed away at Prishtina airport just after setting foot on his homeland soil at the conclusion of a visit to Germany.


Introduction: In the Highlands of Rugova - a Retrospective on the Poetry of Azem Shkreli

From the volume “I Know a Word of Stone” (E di një fjalë prej guri), 1969

Four Pieces of Advice for Myself
Odin’s Chalice
The Lake
At Saint Naum’s
Simple Things
Before the Elegy
Instead of Good-bye
With Migjeni

From the volume “From the Bible of Silence” (Nga Bibla e heshtjes), 1975

The River
In Amongst the Ears of Corn
Drunken Song
The Cliff
The Words
The Bird
Over Europe
Blue Meditation
Sallow Motifs
The Death of the Highlander
The Rock Spring of Martin Boga

From the volume “The Song of the Owl” (Kënga e hutinit), 1986

Obituary for a Bird
Conversation with the Shkrelis
Monument to Mic Sokoli
Song of the Owl
Cockeyed Day
Second Book of Silence
Black Bird
Head of Hair of a Contemptuous Age
Before the Game
Fourth Day
The Broken Clock
A Tale about Us
March of the Larvae
Still Life
The Toast
From Friday’s Diary
If there is no Lightning
Thirsty Song
Frightened Light
Evil Flower
The End of Waiting
Dead Poets
Notes at Night, 1
Notes at Night, 2
Notes at Night, 3
Note on Bureaucrats
Pre-electoral Note
Note on Silence
Note on Nothing

From the volume “The Night of the Parrots” (Nata e papagajve), 1990

Diary at Night
Intermediate Time
Wolf’s Spoor
Nettle Seed
Before the Journey
On the Ocean
Time to Go

From the volume “Lyrics with Rain” (Lirikë me shi), 1994

Illyrian Chronicle
Report from the South
Lyrics on Freedom
Departure of the Migrants
Night of the Migrants
Letter to the Fatherland
The Light of Separation
After the Wars
Prayer for Them
The Drin
At Waterloo
Villa Waldberta
Esat Mekuli
Martin’s Stone
If I Become a Mountain

From the volume “Birds and Stones” (Zogj dhe gurë), 1997

The Albanians
Arms as Trophies
The Sword
The Peoples of the Balkans
Conversation with the Neighbours
Song with Friends
Song of Shame


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