The Kosovo-Albanian poet Ali Podrimja was born in 1942 in Gjakova, which is now in Kosovo but was then a part of the Italian-occupied fascist Albania. His childhood and youth were marked by privation, and he had to overcome the tragic, early deaths of his parents. He studied Albanian Language and Literature at the University of Pristina until 1966 and went on to work as a journalist and publisher’s reader. He published prose and poetry from 1961, and has published ten volumes of his poetry to date. Whilst at school he had already published his first collection of poems, »Thirrje« (1961, tr: The Calls). In his following books Podrimja revealed himself to be a mature symbolist, who could avail himself of a diversity of rhymes and metres. A turning point in his work came with the poetry collection »Lum Lumi« (1982). It is an homage to his young son Lumi, who died of cancer. He examines themes of loneliness, fear, death and fate. Podrimja’s tone, however, remains laconic. His poems exhibit a dense structure, and he plays with powerful images and avoids any artistic prolixity. As a master of terse symbols and allegories, he also weaves elements of orally-transmitted Albanian folk poetry, unusual metaphors and modern language use into his poetry, and surprises the reader with unexpected syntactic structures and subtle rhymes. Thematically, Podrimja has always returned to the sparse mountainous region from which he comes, and to the light and the colours of this landscape. The Kosovo-Albanian national identity and their struggle to assert themselves against direction from outsiders is a central theme in his work. Kosovo-Albanian literature, largely influenced by the oral tradition and only transcribed since the 17th century, was for a long time almost unknown in Europe. Podrimja’s collection »Ich sattle das Ross den Tod« (1991, tr: I Saddle Death the Steed) was the very first German-language publication by a contemporary Albanian poet. In it, he condenses his experience of daily menace, injustice and Europe’s apathy: »Death sings on / in Sarajevo / and decapitated heads / still come as a gift / for sleeping Europe.« Podrimja’s books were translated also in other languages as: English, French, Italian, Polish, Rumanian, Turkish, Greek, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, and also was present in many anthologies in foreign languages.
In 1992 Podrimja won the Pjeter-Bogdani-Prize, one of the most prestigious Albanian literary awards, for the German-Albanian first publication of his poems. He was also awarded the International Nikolaus-Lenau-Prize in Stuttgart in 1999, and many other awards as in Kosovo also in Albania. Ali Podrimja lives in Pristina and is a member of the Academy of Science and Arts of the Republic of Kosovo.