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Article on Kristaq F Shabani, An Albanian Poet
essay [ ]

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by [kksrivastava ]

2010-04-15  |     | 

“For every poet it is always the morning in the world, and History a forgotten insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.”

Derek Walcott

Any article, critical one at that (I leave the hazards of what is meant by the word “critical writings” to the imagination of distinguished audience present here) will not start on a judicious note unless the writer of that article is sure about the relationship that exists between the background and the figure that will be the subject matter of such an article. Let me place my cards on the table. In one of the articles I wrote on the Poetry of Wendy Webb recently, I tried to explain that relationship and I reproduce the excerpts:

“The world of poetry is not a facile and straight world. It is a world characterized by hostile presence of structures, firm and high, crumbling and dwindling, having acute frustrations and severe conflicts, with perceivable areas of darkness and hidden areas of illumination, varied and skewed, but enlightening always trying to bring to the fore buried potential of words. It is a world full of dichotomies: pleasures and perils, love and hatred, gains and losses all are intermingled but unaccountably. The onus of explaining that unaccountability rests with the writers, a term that mercifully includes poets too. The word “mercifully” used here is to remind ourselves that poetry as a genre is exhibiting a decreasing trend all over the world with no big publishers as takers for poetry books and no big readership. It is really a strange world-it’s strangeness makes the texture of life of poets and it’s strangeness forms the wrap and the woof of what we call poetry: good or bad. There is really no good poetry or no bad poetry-a poem is a poem as perceived by the readers. Perception again is motivated by personal experiences and motives. The fact that even after about fifty years of their having been penned, let me take an example of a Hindi poet from my own country i.e. Muktibodh, whose poems, longer ones in particular still continue to be subject matter of a great debate and discussion as regards their real motive and meaning, speaks a lot of an unending tendency of readers cutting across all cultures to keep absorbing newer and newer facets of long existing poems. That is one way history of literature ensures that obscurity melts away as time passes by. So aptly writes T.S.Eliot in his poem, A Note on War Poetry-

“In the effort to keep day and night together;
It seems just possible that a poem might happen
To a very young man: but a poem is not poetry-
That is a life.

“But the abstract conception
Of Private experience at it’s greatest intensity
Becoming universal’ which we call “poetry’

Though a poem has a life but it does not die. It dies the moment people stop reading it or looking at it. No poem thus dies or ceases to exist as no one on this earth can ever guarantee that a poem, however obscure and nebulous that might be, will never be read.”

(The whole article can be reached at under Essay titled The Poetry of Wendy Webb by K.K.Srivastava)

The above citation is primarily meant to convey the general milieu about the prevailing poetic scene and the troubling contexts against which poets pen their verses. There is hardy any denying that many voices, in the humdrum world of contemporary poetry, nowadays don’t captivate us. They don’t as they have their dimensions unable to stir the conscience of readers, readers find it hard to mingle their dreams and realties as well with these voices, they find in difficult to perceive their identities as submerging into these voices. It is the “profound pleasure” that one seeks in poems, it is the “emotional tranquility” that one gropes in for in poems, it is the “bliss of solitude” that one aspires for in a poem.

Recently I have had the occasion to sate my intellectual appetite in terms of pleasure, tranquility and bliss in the form of my reading Kristaq F Shabani’ intellectually inspiring collection of poems—Humiliated Virtue (translated by Kostas Gatzonis). It resonates with echoes of the Greek mythology. It is a collection that addresses bigger and more versatile issues that modern philosophy brings to poets and writers, reinforced by constant cultural reorientation which in turn mixes together anxieties of modern human beings with the growing need to have a spiritualistic way of life. In brief, this collection tackles broader structures of the literature which nowadays is referred to as “post-post modernism”.

Kristaq F Shabani’ verse, like Ezra Pound’ Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Contacts and Life) speculate about the hopelessness of a modern mind pitted against civilization’s oddities. Self clashes with self depicting the superficial problems of self-centered people and leave us amid abandonment and cataclysm. Kristaq writes in Introduction in Humiliated Virtue:

“When the tears start to fall, Virtues face humiliation.
Man that is so sarcastic asks the ENTITY
What is left from MAN;
The Entity is silent with an unprecedented muteness.
Tears only show weaknesses or do they seek their secret synonymns…”

Let us compare these sentiments from Part V of Pound’s Huge Selwyn Mauberly:

“There died a myriad
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization…”

This volume of Shabani is one of the more completely realized and artistically accomplished volumes I have seen in recent past. The underlying elements of Puritanism in the book are it’s hallmark and there is a smoother show of violence and tenderness in his lines. ”What is left of MAN” besieges the readers with regard to hopelessness that loafers around not in the darkness outside but within. Shabani’ s all efforts as I move through his book convinces me of his astute determination to coax the light out of darkness within and then submerge it with greater conscience.

“Moments of embracement
With faces turned down
Do they sit these moments
A dring melts…it loses the name
The name that is condemned in the very deep darkness.”

Orphan in Humiliated Virtue

There are half-hidden images in above lines-the images that evoke a sense of formlessness but keep stirring. “A very deep darkness” is a silhouette against the stirrings of hidden light. I have reasons to find traces of influence of writings of Nietzsche in Shabani’s poetry.

“The Prophet was killed again.
The Ape is escalating, climbing upwards
The Prophet came to light once again,
During the day I read calmly and clearly.”

Everyone Becomes Whatever……

“The Gods are wounded badly
Did you see them..”


Remember the description by Nietzsche of the market crowded with human beings, gossiping and purchasing, walking aimlessly when suddenly a naked man came running shouting “God is dead. God is dead.” And then blamed the crowd for having killed God. And the crowd, in turn, baptized that man as “mad.” For Shabani, as it was for Nietzsche, poetry is an experience that goes beyond words despite the uneasiness that accompanies being an intellectual in rebellion as Shabani is. Shabani questions through his poems rationality of thoughts which are subject matter of his imaginative game and emotional ambivalence. He questions the order, autocratic orders to which are subordinate human beings. He comes so close to Auden who writes,

“When he laughed, respected senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.”

W. H. Auden in Epitaph of a Tyrant Hand

And again with Pentti Saarikoski, the poet from Finland—

“Tyrants were
Who undressed
And got dressed
Worked into the small dark hours”

Invitation to the Dance

“Kings ascend and descend
From their thrones.
The “Vicars” of bregi
In the same roles
Only that they change their cloths like masks…”

The Vicars in Humiliated Virtue

This is where images of past and present become one; the poet continually looking from the center of an old civilization into the prospects of contemporary life. The aura of sycophancy he abhors. Looking back at short, thought provoking poems of Humiliated Virtue one wonders if the poet has overcome ruptured images of the conflicts between good and bad or still he has to overcome these as often times we find him providing us a psychological armour to his readers to cope with their anxieties. He suggests

“the night is so endless…
A night full with fragrances
From all the colours…”


Kristaq is intellectually graceful, erudite, knowledgeable and dreamy. In his poems it is easy to notice thoughts disappearing into images, to appreciate his recourse to Greek mythology, to be stunned with originality and artistic exuberance of poems and above all to see “the pearls” of his literary achievements. He writes with as much passionate energy as is possible covering an impressive array of topics. His kaleidoscopic mind touches virtually everything from mundane to metaphysical, personal to political catching a variety of moods and perspectives. Most refreshing phenomenon about his poetry is that he is not a self obsessed poet and he enjoys illuminating the world both internal and external in all their radiance. Written in free verse his poems have rhythm and are lyrical, beautiful blend of time and space. He locates the self in the backwash of history and culture and portrays his feelings with the solitude of an observer. His is a voice –ample strong and eerie. Built up from details his poems are deep and intense posing eschatological and philosophical questions which I sincerely hope the honoured poets, writers and artists participating in this international symposium will address during 8th April to 11th April 2010.

P S__ This article written by K.K.Srivastava was read out on 11th April 2010 at an international symposium held in Albania.

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