3 poems by Mohammed Bennis


You desert
be vaster
let a painful dust
envelop me
the migrating dust
the birds have pushed
toward the tablet where violence resides
But now it bursts
and delivers books
and dilutes itself
in all the veins
Be vaster
you whose place is
the perpetuity of rage
and let the ports
have done with fear
comes to help me
Verticality has prepared me
for this effacement
over there
a scream lights up
These palm trees make their evening humid and rotten
My hand
is threatened
on the shoulder of steam

* * *


This silence belongs to me
to you all my feasts
and watch out for them
for in the beginning no gaze
gets there and no pillar
to hold it up
On the narrow earth of those
who lived
I saw the apocalypse of my fever
This silence
is my ally
I now have my orbit
a sun slow
-ly draws it into its vaults
then my hands in trance
repeat it

* * *


Two hands close by One transparent
The winds whistle all around

Is this your orbit
or is it my calligraphies
come back from song
and from a certain dust

Thus over there
over there

[Translated by Pierre Joris]

* * *

Mohammed Bennis was born in Fez, Morocco in 1948. He is a major figure of contemporary Moroccan poetry and teaches Arab poetry at the University of Rabat. In 1971 he founded the literary magazine Attakafa Aljadida which was essential in defining an avant-garde & experimental Arab-language poetry in the Maghreb. He is also the co-foiunder of the House of Poetry of Morocco.

His works include:
Before Speech
Towards Your Vertical Voice
Leaf of Splendor
The River between Two Funerals.

As well as an influential critical thesis entitled Modern Arab Poetry: Structure and Transmutations, published in 4 volumes.

His Collected poems came out in 2002.

Unhappily little has so far been translated into English, (Alison Croggon recently reprinted some work in her on-line magazine Masthead — work that had first appeared in the London-based magazine Banipal. And here’s one further poem translated by James Kirkup) though a French reader can have access to Bennis’ work via Le Don du Vide, a collection co-translated by the author and the French popet Bernard Noël (L’Escampette, 1999).

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3 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    is “popet” same as “poppet”? and if so, what does the word mean in your context? little pope? puppet? “little one, dear”
    (british)? us folks in ypsilanti, we never use the word!

  2. pierre says:

    ah, mon cher anonymous ypsilantian, friend Bernard could well be called a popet or little pope, though he really is but an excellent poeta, which is not a typo for poet as popet is & ill remain as now i cannot correct it without making this exchange redundant or in need of deletion…

  3. I’m now just collecting Mohamed Bennie’s poems for translate into Bengali(Bangladesh)
    Please give me permission to publish them in my language.

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