February 22, 2023

Gentian Çoçoli (Albania) 1972

Gentian Çoçoli (Albania)



Gentian Çoçoli comes from the southern Albanian town of Gjirokastra, near the Greek border. He is founder and editor of the literary periodical Aleph and works with Aleph Press.

     He first two collections of poetry were Qytetrime të përkohshme (Transitory Civilizations) (1996) and Perimetri i hirit (The Circumference of Ashes) (2001).


     He has also translated several contemporary American poets and won a prize for his translation of Seamus Heaney.

     His “Circumference of Ash” was selected a Best Poetry Book of the Year in 2001 by the Ministry of Culture in Albania. His most recent book of poetry is Dheu njerėzor (Human Soil) (2006). That same year, 2006, he was a guest of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

     He heads the culture and art department in Albania’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.




Qytetrime të përkohshme (Tirana, 1996); Perimetri i hirit (Tirana, 2001); Dheu njerėzor (Tirana, 2006)



In the Hand of the Author


for Parid Teferiçi

I. 1921


So just like Nikolay Gumilyov

With aching feet, attention!

His snowy compass set for the last course,

Clutching the Iliad, hands outstretched,

To put into perspective what will happen

When the plummeting bullets accent his body

And let the entire, eventual revelation

Take its final path brooding on his brow.

Then a profound silence will fall,

Lighter than fresh snow on latter day drifts,

Polite whispers in Russian and ancient Greek will waft

From the broken down door, black as ink,

Leathery, ponderous, punctuated: "Please, madam, ladies first,"

"I insist, madam, ladies first."


II. 2005


December. Piazza d'Autore, Fontana di Lingua.

A meeting of men in marble. But bingeing

Has beaten, besmirched their bodies, even the strongest,

And in this transparent air, purposefully etched as well,

One of them, away from the rest, emerges not a step

From the medium, being a bas-relief, incomplete at that,

And with very human traits refined,

Though even the missing parts mirror what is human.

In his teeth he clenches a spout of wood (also made of marble),

Blocking the rest lodged in his body, undefined by the author,

While all that unseen water gurgles from his Adam's apple,

'round the backs of his heels, spurting out of a crack

Which the chisel's tip, held in a well-tanned fist, incised on his brow.




Inhabitants of 1995. Not very far from here,

A siren of our age is heard,

Then shots, wailing, unfathomable silence.

And everything from the start again.

The human season has begun.

And even farther from us,

An ancient forest, attentive and morose,

Retains the power to close its heavy gates in time,

This time forever.


IV. 1998


In the silence of a foreign house, at the foot of the hill,

Burdened by the autumnal pathos of vineyards,

Translator Lirim sits down to unfetter a marble language.

It is a rare moment as thousands of eyes watch, as if on screen,

The point of his pen which has finally pierced

The capillary path, so deathly grey,

That ends at the heels.

Yet the blinding light in which he squints and flinches comes not

From the copper clasp of ancient sandals, but

From the barrel pin of sniper No---, who from the hill crest,

Hiding in houses nourishing fructose wisdom,

Hastens at high noon to shoot a hole in the tip of the quill

Which in the blink of an eye unleashes that hexametrical magma.

So nigh was language, but it was not to be written.


Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie



[Në dorë të autorit.]



The Skotini Cave



Excursion into the dark, this most primaeval of motherhoods.

With our heads resting on those shadowy palms,

We crept, delving into the body of the cave,

But we did come back, we always came back.

North winds on the waters in the womb of the deep,

Sombre breezes blowing in the bowels of our beings.

We were there to give birth to awe, and our brows - to script,

The cave lent us her gravities,

A bevy of bats fluttered by towards the light.

"Once, the speleologists poured untold litres

Of fluorescein into the waters down there,

Which resurfaced miles away,

Where the Drino and Kardhiq rivers meet

At the Palokastra Cascade."

Its essence distilled in a mist teeming with words,

The fluorescein mapped the halves of our skulls.

And then, a free return. Subpassages or

Submeanings of synapses swelled to their margins,

With all of us there, and for one moment, we were language itself.



Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie


[Ne shpellën e Skotinisë.]

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