Mohammed Bennis

Mohammed Bennis

Mohammed Bennis was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1948. He has taught in the Faculty of arts at the Mohammed V University in Rabat since 1980. Bennis’ efforts are aimed at the modernization of Arab poetry. He ranks among the most important voices in Arab literature.

He interested in literature, and above all poetry, in his first years at college. His university study was in the Faculty of arts at Fes. Turning toward dialogue, he translates from French language texts into Arabic, and participated in Arabic and International poetry festivals. In addition to his literary work, Bennis has been active on a politico-cultural level. In 1974, he founded the magazine “Al Thaqâfa Al Jadida” (The new Culture), which played an active role in the cultural life of Morocco until it was closed dawn by the Moroccan government in 1984 after unrest in Casablanca. In 1985 together with university professors and writers, he established the publishing house “Dar Toubkal”. He was also the driving force behind the funding of The House of Poetry in Morocco in 1996 and became its president from 1996 to 2003. He addressed in 1999 a call to UNESCO for an International day of poetry. The UNESCO declared Mars 21 as International day of Poetry.

Since 1969 he published about 30 collections of verse and essays in Arabic. Many poems of him was translated and published in French, Spanish, English, Deutsche, Italian, Swedish, Catalonian, Portuguese, Japanese, Slovenian and Macedonian. Several of his collections of poems have already been translated into French, Spanish and Italian and Turkey.

Awards and distinctions

  • 1993. The book prize in Morocco of creative writing, awarded for his collection The Gift of the void (poems).
  • 2000. The Prize of Atlas for translation into French for his poem’s Collection River among the Mournful (poems).
  • 2003. Chevalier des arts et des lettres, France.
  • 2006. The Italian Prize of Calopezzati of Mediterranean Literature.
  • 2006. An Honorary member of The International Association of Haiku in Tokyo.
  • 2007. The Italian Ferronia Prize of International Literature.
  • 2007. Al Oweis (Dubai) for his poetry works.

 
from Hieroglyphs

1

A ghost
You attend to the ruby time
No east will rise in you or west
A niche
Drowned in blue rustle shrouded by the Kingdom
A clay horizon
Eternity
Dangling like a bunch of grapes
For a hand that drifts away
And dies

A stone
Forgets its master
Was he
Here
Or was he there
A stone above a stone
Rises to watch you
The comer
No one
Is still awake but you

A silence attends to me
And for you my guest
There will be a night of papyri
And a night of
Ageless
Distances
Arriving in hissing scents
The night’s end
And beginning
Are identical
Friezes are becoming one
Under the feet of the river’s dusk
Intoxication echoes resonate inside me
And fade away

Mohammed Bennis
© Translation by James Kirkup

 
Rose of Dust

1

Shattered places
and the breeze
of dawn wakes up on me

2

My shoulder still in slumber
A cloud bowing
to the flicker of infinity

3

Is it that trees invent their echo
or
has the blind
just dipped his hand
in water

4

The poet closes
his eyes
on a rose
of
dust

5

Scratching my window-pane
the pine tree
lightly shudders
under a snow of ashes

6

Smooth water
From which paleness
did the wind return
and throw another topaz in the river

7

Solitude
could
end with winding paths
intoxication
trips
But whenever I inquire about death
a lady stands against me
impetuous and mute

8
The night barks here
Thumps somewhere
And I am drinking
Hˆlderlin’s wine

9

A shimmer
Then another
Enough for the magician
to make sure
that time is tame
that poetry is a call

10

No one saw me
quietly opening a drawer
to see
where did my self
sneak in

11

My bones have their own biting frost
Is there a name that will go out
before me tonight

12

Clouds upon clouds
flutter
A leap
I almost thought my hand
was made of clouds

13

Play with my poetry’s lock
I say
I’m a lantern
a rug
a snow
a wall

14

Two starts kidnapped my hand
For a second
I watched it
tremble
weep
Am I
or am I

from The Pagan Place
published by
Toubqal, Casablanca, 1996

Mohammed Bennis
© Translation by Anton Shammas

 
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Published with the permission of Mohammed Bennis