From October 17th to 21st 2019, the 23rd Edition of the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” was held in Tetova and in Korça. On its agenda there was a series of different activities, such as many literary readings, book presentations, the awarding of literary prizes, visits of different cultural and historical sights in Tetova, Ohrid, Korça and Pogradec.

The festive opening of the 23rd Edition of the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” was accompanied by a beautiful firework and the presentation of national Illyrian / Albanian costumes in front of the Cultural Centre “Naim Frashëri” in Tetova. The director of the Festival, Shaip Emërllahu, and the English laureate, Fiona Sampson, laid down bouquets of flowers in front of the statue of our national poet Naim Frashëri.

At the entrance of the Cultural Centre, during this opening, the public was also offered the anthology of this edition and 10 new books of the publishing house “Ditët e Naimit”.

After that, the 23rd edition of the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” was officially opened in the Big Auditorium. It was opened by the director of the Festival, Mr. Shaip Emërllahu, who, after greeting and welcoming the attendants, stressed in his speech: “Over the years, literature and culture in general have experienced different models and types of intercommunication. These multi-layered levels of dialogue have been carrying the weight of literary and cultural development and affirmation.

One such model of the promotion of diversities of literary and cultural intercommunication, is the model of international festivals. They have been and continue to be even now an arena where a close dialogue takes place on the level of the literary and cultural subject, of literary production, on the linguistic and the ethnical level. All these have corresponding spaces where bridges of an intercultural cooperation can be built, where experiences and information can be exchanged between artists, poets, people from the musical sphere etc., but also between different cultural organizers. Festivals demonstrate a mobility of the components of the structure of cultural heritage and diversity. They are a meeting place of a spiritual and inspirational intercommunication, where the expectations and the vibrancy from the values of the development of peoples from different civilizations intersect. It is well-known that culture resides in the heart of human civilization and development. The quality of civilization is influenced by the performance of the construction of a dialogue, which emanates “from the essential quality of spiritual and inspirational gathering”. As Alain Bosquet says: The spirit of a people is mirrored in its poetry better than in any other art form. The dialogue of literary experiences, concepts and ideas of different peoples through these literary and cultural meetings in the format of a cultural and literary lighthouse indicates at the best their corresponding blockages and advances.

The director then pointed out that without any doubt, the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” is such a model of contemporary literary and cultural intercommunication. Since its beginnings, it has considered indispensable the reconstitution of a modern infrastructure of intercommunication with foreign cultures and literature. This festival has assumed the dimensions of an outstanding cultural institution, (…) as an activity where not only poets from different countries of the world meet, but above all the cultures of peoples, as a testimony of communication, mutual recognition and appreciation. It has become the bringer and propagator of its own kind of multiculturalism, where the authority belongs to poetry, this “magic formula which connects people and peoples”.

At the beginning of the great literary hour “Poetic Globe”, the actor Arsim Kaleci recited the poetic hymn of the Festival, “Words of the Candle” by Naim Frashëri. Then the poets from different countries of the world read their poems: Antoine Simon (France), Fiona Sampson (Great Britain), Tanya Ko Hong (South Korea / USA), Mohamed Rabie (Palestine / USA), Manuel Iris (Mexico / USA), Aminur Rahman (Bangladesh), Maja Panajotova (Bulgaria / Belgium), Jan Dost (Syria / Germany), Rokiah Hashim (Malaysia), Silke Blumbach (Germany), Edvige Gioia (Italy), Giuseppe Napolitano (Italy), Dorit Weisman (Israel), Niki Papoulakou (Greece), Josipa Gogic (Croatia), Tara Skurtu (USA), Katerina Gogova (North Macedonia), Naida Mujkic (Bosnia and Hercegovina), Mitko Gogov (North Macedonia), Besnik Mustafaj (Albania), Arjan Kallço (Albania), Anton Papleka (Albania), Bujar Plloshtani (Kosova) and Burhanedin Xhemaili (North Macedonia).

The Jury member Xhelal Zeneli read aloud the motivation why the Jury consisting of Prof. Dr. Ymer Çiraku (chairman), Ndue Ukaj and Xhelal Zejneli (members) awarded one month ago the great literary prize “Naim Frashëri” to the British poet Fiona Sampson. The member of the Jury of the Festival Prof. Dr. Xhelal Zejneli presented the justification for the awarding of the literary prize “Naim Frashëri”. The Poet Fiona Sampson “is a quite well-known writer and poet, who has published up to now 27 books and has been translated in over 30 languages. She has received the Order of the British Empire for her services for literature and also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is a professor of Poetry at the University of Roehampton and also a literary critic, a writer of chapbooks and an editor of publications. Among the awards she has received up to now there are: Newdigate Prize, Cholmondeley Award, Hawthornden Fellowship, as well as international prizes in the USA and some other countries. Fiona Sampson’s poetry transmits the complex world of the human being of today, with all spiritual vibrations and the relief of his or her existential world. Out of this poetry, deep messages emanate for the reader, intertwined with a rich poetic language, with stylistic variety and dense layers of meaning. It is a natural poetry, which strays magically in the blue dance of lakes surged out of myths, which then spreads to the secret recesses of the world, to hear everything, even the voice of the ants who under the tree build their hidden anthills… The appreciation of the jury and its decision to give the prize of the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” to the British poet Fiona Sampson is an appreciation of her rich and precious creativity as well as the expression of the high esteem for the blessed language of poetry, which, with the magic of its art, is able to overcome linguistic and regional boundaries and to turn into a spiritual richness for the people all over the world.” After these words, the director of the Festival, Shaip Emërllahu, handed her the main prize “Naim Frashëri”, which is given for “High aesthetic and artistic value” and gave the title of an Honorary Member of the Festival to the well-known British poet Fiona Sampson.

On this occasion, the laureate Sampson thanked the organisers and the Jury for the awarding of this high prize of the Festival.
Up to now, the title of an Honorary Member of the Festival has been conferred to well-known writers and intellectuals, like Ismail Kadare (Albania), Desmond Egan (Ireland), Thomas Tidholm (Sweden), Manlio Argueta (El Salvador), Abdellatif Laâbi (Morocco), Fatos Arapi (Albania), Peter Poulsen (Denmark), Lionel Ray (France), Eva Lipska (Poland), Ali Podrimja (Kosova), Craig Czury (USA), Tua Forsström (Finland), Athanase Vantchev de Thracy (France), Sebastiano Grasso (Italy), Kuei-shien Lee (Taiwan), George Wallace (USA) etc.

Also, the Directory of the Festival in this edition awarded the title Honorary Member, for literary career, to the intellectual and poet Besnik Mustafaj.

In this magical night of poetry, the literary award “Silke Liria”, which is given “For the poetic expression”, went to the Bosnian poet Naida Mujkic. This award was created five years ago as a support to the struggle of the German poet Silke Liria Blumbach with metastased cancer. As today the situation has changed, the Direction has decided to award this prize this year for the last time.

Some time ago, the poet Shaip Emërllahu was awarded the main prize of the Festival of Bangladesh. For material reasons he could not travel there to receive it. The director of this festival brought it and handed it over to him on stage in Tetova.

On the second day of the programme, in the Town Hall of Tetova, 10 new books of the publishing house “Ditët e Naimit” were promoted. The chairman of the Municipal Council of Tetova, Bekim Mehmeti, having welcomed the poets of the Festival, pointed out that the Municipality of Tetova has always supported culture and the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” and will continue to do so in the future. Some of the published books, which were presented, were written by the laureates of the Festival: the French poet with Bulgarian origin Athanase Vantchev de Thracy: “Hapni dritaren” (Open the Window); of the Polish poet Eva Lipska: “Mësohu me vdekjen” (Get Familiar with Death); and of the Albanian poet Basri Çapriqi: “Perëndim dielli” (Sunset). There were the books of the Italian poet Giuseppe Napolitano: “10 vjet në Tetovë” (10 Years in Tetova) and of the Malaysian poet Siri Rokiah Hashim: “Rëra e Sri Lavender” (The Sand of Sri Lavender). The other books are by the poets Besnik Mustafaj: “Në kërkim të gjuhës” (Looking for Language); Kujtim Shala: “Lethe”; Ekrem Ajruli “Më josh jermia” (Attracted by Delirium); as well as the anthology of the 23rd Edition of the Festival, “Pema e hijes” (The Tree of Shadow) and the anthology of contemporary Macedonian poetry compiled by Shaip Emërllahu.

These books were presented by the poets and scholars Besnik Mustafaj, Arjan Kallço, Ndue Ukaj, Xhelal Zejneli, Remzi Salihu, and Bujar Plloshtani. The Mayor of the Municipality of Tetova granted to the well-known Italian poet Giuseppe Napolitano an Acknowledgement for his great contribution for the affirmation of culture and literature for the city of Tetova. Giuseppe Napolitano has written three books with lyrical diaries about Tetova and its international Festival, and he has translated several Albanian authors into Italian and published them in Italy. In the name of the Mayor, the Acknowledgement was handed to him by the poet Bardhyl Zaimi.

In the afternoon, the poets visited the cultural and historical sites of the city of Tetova. In the evening, the Arabati Baba Tekke was the scene of the literary hour “Poets and Verses”.

On Saturday, the poets left for Korça and visited on the way the city of Ohrid. In Korça, the second part of the programme of the Festival took place co-organised with the Municipality of Korça.

The 23rd edition of the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit” was closed with the great literary hour “Poetic Meridians”, which was held in the Museum “Bratko” in Korça, where the poets read their poems and the remaining literary prizes of the Festival were awarded. This evening was opened by the coordinator of the programme for Korça, Jorida Dhëmbi, whereas the Vice-Mayor of the Municipality of Korça, Benila Torrova, held another welcoming speech.

The prize “Ditët e Naimit”, which is given for one’s literary career, was awarded to the Palestinian poet Mohamed Rabie.
The prize “Menada” for special poetic values was given to the poet Aminur Rahman from Bangladesh.
The literary prize “Oeneum” for the best poetry cycle went to the French poet Antoine Simon.
The literary prize “Naim’s Candle” for the best poem was given to the Macedonian poet MItko Gogov.

On the fourth day, the participating poets in Korça visited the museum house of the first Albanian school, the museum “Gjin Milli”, and the went to Pogradec, where they visited the statues of the poets Ladgush Poradeci and Mitrush Kuteli as well as Drilon. In the evening they returned to Tetova.
For this edition, the Direction of the Festival published again an anthology with the poems of the participating poets, “Pema e hijes” (The Tree of Shadow), compiled by Shaip Emërllahu.
The poems were read in Albanian by the actor Arsim Kaleci and accompanied on the piano by the pianist Biondina Selami. The Festival was moderated by Narta Emërllahu.
It was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Macedonia, the Municipality of Tetova, the Municipality of Korça and the sponsors JU-SM, Arbi, Parajsa e Sharrit, and Kurtishi. Support was also given by the Centre of Culture and the association “Karnevalet Ilire” (Illyrian Carnevals).

D. Hadri

Tetova, October 22nd, 2019