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, Italian and Turkish.

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.

Seven Birds

To Mahmoud Darwish

A white Bird

A breath condenses
Even density can be pleasant
Each wall widens its cracks

And retains the call

A height that remains a height
Springs that have gathered the winds of the fields

A Red Bird

It may have travelled the river in one night
The road may have guided it through the upper layers

I ponder the mystery of its redness
Then forget the sky
That has taken it


A Green Bird

There are sleeping feathers before me
Feathers that blast me with the fire of distance
And feathers without a body that bend
And collect
In a point

Between us speech is fluttering

A Blue Bird

So drunk in the evening it’s almost unable to return
It would prefer that departure go on
Without departure

Of light in the pool
Grow longer

A Black Bird

Each thing wants to emulate it
Water in the pots
Words on their birthdays
Caravans across borders
A girl not yet wet with dew

But the thrush
Emulates only

It stays on branches of joy

A Yellow Bird

That window remains open for it as
they sit face to face and the bird stays
because of an approaching silence
until without even pecking the grains
it soars just as its past did just as its
future will at dawn

A Colorless Bird

Elated it chirps on one of the nights of solitude
Before it flies
Where light unites with vibration
A draft that startles
Its visitor with a wing whose recurrent glitter
Is ever-changing and I can see it from a distance

It flies
So that what I see
Is this thing that resembles nothing distant

Mohammed Bennis
© Translation by Fady Joudah

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Published with the permission of Mohammed Bennis