Born in the hamlet of Brrut near Rrapsh-Starja in the Malësia e Madhe district of northern Albania in 1965, Gjekë Marinaj studied journalism in Vlora and published his first news article at age sixteen. In his mid-twenties, he published an anti-communist poem called "The Horses" in Drita, a newspaper of the Albanian Writers Union. Warned that his arrest for writing the poem was imminent, Marinaj escaped the authorities by hiking through the mountains overnight and crossing the border from Albania into Yugoslavia. He carried with him only a few books and a blanket to protect him from the barbed wire at the border.
From Yugoslavia, Marinaj emigrated to the United States. Now an American citizen, he lives with his wife, Dusita, in Texas, where he is working on a Ph. D. in literary studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. He also teaches English and Communications, including world literature, at Richland College. Marinaj is currently president of the Albanian-American Society of Writers and editor of Pena International, a bilingual literary journal published in America. He has published two books of poetry: Mos më ik larg (Do Not Depart From Me), Tirana 1995; and Infinit (Infinite), Dallas 2000; and one book of author interviews: Ana tjetër e pasqyrës (The Other Side of the Mirror), Dallas 2003. He has also translated three books of poetry from English into Albanian: Ora e Paqes (The Hour of Peace), Dallas 2005, by Rainer Schulte; Në Shpellën e Platonit (In Plato's Cave), Tirana 2006, by Frederick Turner; and Poezia Amerikane (American Poetry), Tirana 2006, an anthology of major contemporary American poets, including Ted Kooser, Gary Snyder, and Maya Angelou.