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.

from Hieroglyphs


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
Dangling like a bunch of grapes
For a hand that drifts away
And dies

A stone
Forgets its master
Was he
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
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


Shattered places
and the breeze
of dawn wakes up on me


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


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


The poet closes
his eyes
on a rose


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

from The Pagan Place
published by
Toubqal, Casablanca, 1996

Mohammed Bennis
© Translation by Anton Shammas

For other contributions by Mohammed Bennis, please follow the link below:

Published with the permission of Mohammed Bennis