from the “Diwan Ifrikiya” anthology: Malika al-Assimi

Working on the Maghrebi anthology, a strong discovery for me was the Moroccan poet Malika al-Assimi. Here is the commentary we wrote for her followed by two poems:

Malika al-Assimi, a poet, writer and teacher, also actively involved in politics, has fought discrimination against women, especially in public service, all of her life. Though she lost her first electoral bid to represent her Marrakech district in the Moroccan parliament, she won the seat on the second try. In the early 1970s she founded and published the journal al-Ikhtiyar (The Choice), and has contributed to other journals, such al-Thaqafa al-Maghribiyya (Maghrebi Culture). Her poetry has always been strongly centered on  empowering women in all aspects of their lives — socially, politically and culturally. As A. Laâbi writes: “Malika al-Assimi has played the role of outrider for [Moroccan] women, when one realizes that before her, poetry was a quasi male monopoly. Her contribution is all the more estimable as from the very start she took an offensive line. The stakes did not revolve about making a “feminine voice” heard, but were about inserting oneself naturally into the process of the poetic renaissance in progress. And to this process she brought something often lacking in the male voice: a different relation to the body, to the forces that manifest life or try to destroy it, including in the private sphere. In this rough male winter, it is through an interior sun that her poetry lights our way.” Besides a number of volumes of poetry — including , Kitabat Kharij Aswar al-‘Alam (1988, Writings Outside the Walls of the World), and Aswat Hanjara Mayyita(1989, Voices from a Dead Throat)— she has published a book dealing with political issues regarding women, al-Mar’a wa Ishkaliyyat al-Dimuqratiyya (Women and the Ambiguities of Democracy). and one on the history of Jam’i al-Fina, the famous square in Marrakech.



At night
I abandon all modesty
I open both shutters
of my sun
I lose my head
I fall prey
to a mad ardor
I swell myself with waves
like a sea
at the apex of its tide
My tempests are unleashed
in sequence
My light pierces
I shine
like the lightning bolt that zig-
zags behind the cloud
I scintillate
like a chandelier
of divine light
I persevere in error, that
Mistress of Creation
I haul myself onto the throne
and onto the star’s breast
I consume my madness and my arts
on all my surface
and underground places
the king of the forest roars
My lion roars with love
for the red star
that pierces the horizons



At moonset
I was born
Dawn leaned over the universe
and night’s breast
in rage tore its tunic

The poor parents sat down
on the threshold of God’s earth
That’s when the birds of paradise sang
The eternal branch bent down
shadowed the earth
then covered itself
in silk
and sweetbrier

On the day of my birth
I was thunderstruck
Mount Tor appeared to me
and behind it the marvels of light
and the face of God
I heard the grandiose voice murmur:
O creature of the earth
go to the pond and the water
to the blue in the eye of the phenix
and you will find the man bending
under the burden of earth
Don’t get sad
In your right hand
there will be clouds
and in your left
the glebe
Don’t be sparing with the water
for earth is in a state of neglect
God spoke to me
before sunrise
The branches broke down in tears
and the world still gave itself over to sin
“Pray, o daughter of the breeze and the storms
Your prayer will refresh those who suffer
the torments of Gehenna
will soothe the afflicted in this universe”
I prayed
calamity did not disappear
and His infinite mercy did not come down
upon this world of misfortune
Each time I want to pray
I have to fight those who seize the mihrab
and post watchmen in front of the mosques
My prayers have not purified the universe
but I keep praying

translated from A. Laâbi’s French versions by P.J.


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1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    Quite lovely and a fine beginning to a tired morning.

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