|Born||1948, Fez, Morocco.|
|Notable award(s)||Al-Oweis prize 2007
The rank of knight in the order of the Arts and Letters, France, 2002
Mohammed Bennis is a Moroccan poet and one of the most important poets of the Modern Arabic Poetry. He was born in Fez, Morocco, in 1948. He contributes energetically to the modern Arabic poetry and he enjoys since the 1970s, a particular status in the Arab culture. Muhsin J. al-Musawi writes about him: “The Moroccan poet Muhammad Bennis’ articulations tend to validate his poetics in the first place, to encapsulate the overlapping and contestation of genres in a dialectic that takes into account power politics whose tropes are special. As a discursive threshold between Arab East and the Moroccan West, tradition and modernity, and also a site of contestation and configuration, Muhammad Bennis Self-justifications may reveal another poetic predilection, too.”.
Bennis first attended Koranic School, and he attended the public primary school in 1958, at the age of ten. From an early age, he is interested in literature, particularly lyric poetry. He pursued his university studies in literature at the Faculty of Letters and Human sciences-Dhar Mehraz, Fez, where he obtained, in 1972, the Bachelor of Art degree in Arabic Literature. At the Faculty of Letters and Human sciences of Rabat, Mohammed V-Agdal University, Bennis supported, in 1978, his thesis of PhD supervised by Abdelkébir Khatibi on the “Phenomenon of Contemporary poetry in Morocco”. And, at the same Faculty, he defended, in 1988, a doctoral thesis, supervised by Jamel-Eddine Bencheikh, on “Modern Arabic poetry, structures and mutations”. Bennis published his first poems in 1968 in Al Alam Newspaper in Rabat. In 1969, he sent his poems to the poet Adonis who then published them in n°9 the review Mawakif. Ma Qabla al Kalam; (Before Words), Bennis’ first collection of poems was published in 1969. He settled in 1972, in Mohammedia, where he begun teaching Arabic language. Since 1980, he has been professor of Modern Arabic Poetry at the Faculty of Letters and Human sciences of Rabat, Mohammed V-Agdal University.
Author of around thirty titles (poetry, prose, essay, and translation, among them, thirteen poetry collections, the poetic works (2 volumes), studies on Moroccan poetry and Modern Arabic poetry), Bennis published in numerous newspapers and reviews all over the Arab World. Some of his poems and texts have been translated and published in collective works, reviews and newspapers in Europe, the United States and in Japan. From 1995, poetry collections and books of him have been translated and published into French, Spanish, Italian, Turkish and Macedonian. He writes on painting. Some of his works are realized, by painters, in the form of books and folio volumes, in Morocco, Europe, the United States and in Japan. Kitab al-Hobb (The Book of Love), which was realized in 1994 with the Iraqi painter Dia Azzawi, is the testimony of a common adventure. Turned to the dialogue and the opening, Mohammed Bennis participated in many international meeting on poetry and culture. He had, also, translated works from French language, among which included The Wound of the Proper Name, Abdelkébir Khatibi, The Rumor of the air, collected poetry works of Bernard Noël, Tomb of Ibn Arabi, followed by 99 Stations of Yale, poetry collections and The Malady of Islam, three of Abdelwahab Meddeb, A Throw of the Dice poem of Stéphane Mallarmé, published in a bilingual edition in common with Isabella Checcaglini and Bernard Noël at Ypsilon Éditeur in Paris, in 2007, and Archangélique of Georges Bataille in 2010.
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.
He acted as editor of the Attakafa El Jadids periodical He served on the judging panel for the 2008 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Bennis has also performed with the Sufi group the Hmadcha Ensemble.
Poetry and language
Mohammed Bennis is a poet of interrogation and adventure. He has been concerned, from the start, about the interrogation on Moroccan poetry and Arab culture in contemporary Morocco. Among his famous essay books is one titled Hadathat al-Sou’al (Modernity of interrogation) (1985) . This interrogation allowed him to open the way towards the modernity and the freedom and became the mark of its poetics and cultural route. In time, it has taken a radical dimension, to embrace the poetry, the culture, the modernity and the freedom. Bennis's relationship to French culture is ambivalent. While he rejects the ideology of francophone policy (which for him represents a form of colonizing globalization), he does hold the French language in a very high regard: “As a modern Arab poet, I am committed to French culture and its modernity. The French language was the home of a poetic revolution and it gave my Arabic language a poetic strength, more valuable than any of other modern languages.” Thus he is attached to the modernization of the language, to the freedom of expression based on the fundamental values of modernity. He has followed since youth the tracks of “the poets which made of the human life, in its secrets as in its fears and its illuminations, their space of writing.” His poetry, which grounds itself, at once, on the measure and the trance, is the creative union of two cultures: the ancestral Arabic culture, between the Middle East, Andalusia, Morocco, and the international culture.
Through the concept of writing, Mohammed Bennis, has become involved in a plural textual practice (poetry, text and essays), where language, subject and society are put in a movement, the one towards the other and the one with the other. The first time in which Mohammed Bennis talks about writing, is in Bayan al-Kitaba (Manifesto of the writing)(1981), and, in Kitabat al-Mahw (Erasure writing)(1990). The concept refers to European (Friedrich Nietzsche, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes in mind) and Arabic (especially Abou Tammam, Ibn Arabi, Andalusian-Maghrebian calligraphy and manuscripts), with the purpose, by Bennis, of adapting it to his own ends. For Mohammed Bennis, the writing is a physical act. It is, for him, an “orphan’’, because it “erases the myth of origin.’’ Writing orients the language, according to him, from the communicative function towards the reproduction of words and the interaction between the words, through a transfer of the construction’s rules of the text, on one hand, and according to a replacement of the singular sense by the plural sense, on the other hand. The writing is, in one of the definitions that Mohammed Bennis gives, “a critic of the language, the subject and the society, established in the experience and the practice .” However, “the writing’s subject is material” . It rises at the time of the practice, neither before nor later. And so it is “a liberating act”, “sensual love opened on the life.” It is even, a “trance taken by the erasure.” In this way, the writing abolishes the distance between I, You, He and She. It “eludes the demarcation between poetry and prose”, takes the passage opened between the different textual practices, devotes attention to “the appeal of place”, and urges the reader to change his report with the poem, and make its active reading.
From the concept of the writing, Mohammed Bennis grants an importance to his own composition of the rhythm. It is a question of creating a dynamic lyric that places the body and the senses in the center of the poem. From one collection to the other, the forms of his poems and the perspectives which opened its poetic method give evidence of that. Mohammed Bennis writes in this connection: “The construction of the poem, worked by the infinity of the subjectivity, by the stranger and the impure, undergoes unpredictable transformations. And so the poetic word, written in the margin of literature , does not stop destabilizing the syntax, diverting the image, decomposing the metrics and deforming the order saying itself clean, pure. The road of the poem is the one of the impure, where visible and invisible conjugate. This passage of the seed of the drunkenness becomes a reality in the poem. And here is the impure to wear, from now on, the sign of the pure, the beautiful and the stranger.” And thus the poem, at a time where the culture of consumption and information makes devastation, and where the destructions of the human being triumph, “looks to the parole not at what expresses, but at what creates to me and to you, a renewed birth, human, infinite creation, of the parole.” First task, therefore, of the poem, is to hold up the language to keep in the parole, our parole, its possibility of continuing to live in us and between us. “This is the parole, he writes, which prolongs the parole, human, language of the infinity and the stranger.” The poem, in this sense, is an accompanist who accompanies, with ecstasy, the solitaries in the thirst of their departure unlimitedly towards the beautiful and the free: “what it means the interaction of the breath between the poet and the others in and with the world.”
This is a significant method in the modernization of the language and the Arabic poetry. It is described by the English poet James Kirkup in a letter addressed to Mohammed Bennis : “You allow every word that enters yours poetic consciousness to achieve its full expressive force, and they all manifest themselves as true movements fro; the heart of poetry. You are like a wild bird that sings simply for the joy of singing. You are fascinated by the sound in every word that offers itself to each loving gesture of your poem that allows you to play with words and images echoing your thought. And so you fascinate your readers.”
Kirkup adds, “You use poetic language as if it were some elemental matter which you carve as a sculptor does - the artist who like a blind man is able to feel beneath his chisel the forms he hammers from blocks of marble or granite. And you discover your poem-status without premeditation, by bringing to light and inscribing each line, each verse embedded in the rock of consciousness in the dark of dreams.”
In the same way, the Spanish poet, Antonio Gamoneda writes: “Mohammed Bennis, strange angel who enters in my veins and flows in them like the waters of the instants and you ignite the friendship of light: take me with you to the gardens of the dead, to the place of palms glimpsed between two fugitive abysses. Enter the hole of my chest and show me the gift of the void incandescent and the pupils of animals conceived in crying, those who come to the doors of intoxication to inject us with the passion of light, that substance which birds cross and makes us crazy in the happiness of the sweet contemplation of death.”
The poet in the city
Mohammed Bennis, who crossed the threshold of sixty years, testifies to the role of the poet in the city. Conscious of this role, he adheres, in 1970, to The Writers Union of Morocco, becoming, in 1973, member of its executive board. Bennis was, however, quick to denounce when he observed the dependence of the cultural in politics, he left the association subsequently. In 1974, he foundedm with Mostafa Mesnaoui, the review Attakafa El Jadida (The new Culture) which played an active role in the cultural life in Morocco. The review was later banned and closed down soon after its thirteenth issue by the Ministry of the interior in January 1984, during the riots of Casablanca,. The ban on the review brought him to take up the challenge and to create, in 1985, with writers and academic friends, Mohammed Diouri, [[Abdeltif Menouni and Abdeljalil Nadem, the Publishing house Dar Toubkal, with the aim of contributing to the modernization of the Moroccan culture. Mohammed Bennis was also a founding member, with Mohammed Bentalha, Hassan Nejmi and Salah Bousrif, of the “House of Poetry in Morocco” in 1996, and was the House’s president until 2003. Concerned about the international situation of poetry, he sent, in 1998, a call to Federico Mayor, Chief Executive Officer of UNESCO]], in favor of a World Poetry Day. Thanks to this initiative, on November 15, 1999, UNESCO decided to proclaim March 21, World Poetry Day. Ten years later, when politicians seized the “House of Poetry in Morocco”, he published, in January 2010, an open letter titled “Fear of the Meaning”, where he denounced the irresponsible action against the freedom of poets and poetry. He is also one of the signatories of the Democratic Manifesto, published by Moroccan intellectuals on the occasion of the revision of the Moroccan constitution, in answer to the demand of the "Movement of February 20th ".
Mohammed Bennis participates, since the 1970s in Arabic poetry festivals, and, from 1980, in numerous international poetry festivals as diverse as in Europe, Canada, the United States, and in Latin America. Profiles on his work have appeared in magazines Ars plus, an Albanian Literary journal, nr 8 e diel, 31 August 2003; al Shu'arae review, The poets, a quarterly cultural review of House of Poetry in Ramallah, N 28-29, spring-summer, 2006; and Banipal literary magazine, Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, N 29, London, Summer on 2007. The Associations of writers and Moroccan University researchers have dedicated to his work days of study. In France, he has been awarded, in 2002, the rank of knight in the order of the Arts and Letters. He is also an honorary member of “World Haiku Association” in Japan.
Mohammed Bennis sees awarding the Morocco Book award in 1993 for his collection Gift of the Void, the French translation (Le Don du vide) of which by Bernard Noël in association with the author is appeared in 1999 to L’Escampette Publishing house, in Bordeaux, and the Italian translation by Fawzi Al Delmi is appeared in 2000, under title He Dono Del Vuoto, in Edzioni San Marco dei Giustiniani, in Genoa, and Luis Miguel Cañada's Spanish translation in 2006, under title El Dono Del Vacio, with Antonio Gamoneda's frontispiece, in Ediciones del directs del mediterraneo in Madrid. For the same collection, in its Italian translation, the Primio Calopezzati of the Mediterranean literature was awarded to him in 2006. The French Le prix Grand Atlas of translation (Rabat) was awarded to him in 2000 for its poetry collection Between two Funerals translates into French by Mostafa Nissabouri and published in L’Escampette Publishing house, in Bordeaux in 2003. He also received el Primeo Feronia International for the literature (Italy) in 2007, Al Owais Awards (Dubai) for its whole poetic work was awarded in 2008, the Maghreb Culture Prize (Tunisia) in 2010, and Premio Letterario Internazionale Ceppo Pistoia (the international literary prize Ceppo de Pistoia) in 2011 for its book Il Meditteraneo e la parola, published in 2009 in a translation of Francesca Corrao and Maria Donzelli, at Donzelli Editore in Rome.
In France, he has been awarded, in 2002, the rank of knight in the order of the Arts and Letters. He is also an honorary member of “World Haiku Association” in Japan.
In Arabic: Huna’ka Tab’ka (Over There you Stay) (poems) in 2007, Kala’m al Jassad (Speech of the body) (texts) in 2010 and Sab’atou Touyour (Seven Birds) (poems) in 2011. He translated L’Archangélique and other poems of Georges Bataille.
In French: Bernard Noël's translation, in association with the author, of its collection Le livre de l’amour (The Book of the love), Al Manar Publishing house in Paris is appeared with drawings of Dia Azzawi in January 2008, translation of its collection Feuille de la splendeur (Leaf of Splendour) is appeared in a translation of Mounir Serhani, revised by Bernard Noël in association with the author is appeared to Les éditions Cadastre8zéro publishing house in France, and L’ambigu dans les mots (The dark in the words), a collection of poems in common with Bernard Noël, with Joël Leik's drawings is appeared to El Manar Publishing house in Paris in 2011;
in Italian: Il Mediterraneo e la parola, Viaggio, poesia, ospitalita, has translated by Francesca Corrao and Maria Donzelli, Donzelli Editore, Rome, on 2009; in Turkish, Sarap, Türkçesi Metin Findikçi, Kirmizi Yayinlari, Istanbul, on 2009;
in Spanish: Un río entre dos funerales (poemas), translation of Luis Miguel Cañada, Icaria Editorial, Barcelona, on 2010.
Publications in Arabic
- 1969, Makabla l-Kalam (Before words), (poetry);
- 1972, An al-ittéhad wa’l-farah (Something on Oppression and Joy), (poetry);
- 1974, Wajhou’n mouta’wahhijou’n abra imtidadi azzaman (The Eternally Incandescent Face), (poetry);
- 1979, Zahira ash-shi’r al-mu’asir fi l-Maghrib (The Phenomenon of the Contemporary Poetry in Morocco), (study);
- 1980, Fi Ittijah sawti’ka l-amoudi (Toward your Vertical Voice), (poetry);
- 1980, Al-Ism al-arabi’e l-jarih (The Wound of the Own Name) A. Khatibi (translation);
- 1985, Hadathat’u assou’al (The Modernity of Interrogation), (essay);
- 1985, Mawassim’ou al-sharq (Seasons of the East), (poetry);
- 1988, Warakatou l-baha’e (The Leaf of Splendor), (poetry);
- 1989-1991, Ash-sh’r al-Arabi l-hadith, biny’a touhou wa ibda’la’touha (Modern Arabic Poetry, Structures and Mutations), (study, 4 volumes);
- 1992, Hibatou l-faragh (Gift of the Void), (poetry);
- 1994, Kitabou l-houb (The Book of Love), (poetry) (poetic and artistic work in collaboration with the painter Dia Azzawi);
- 1994, Kitanba’tu l-Mah’ou’e (The Writing of Effacement), (Texts on poetry and modernity);
- 1995, Kitabou l-houb (The Book of Love), (poetry);
- 1996, Al- Makanou l-wathani (The Pagan Place), (poetry);
- 1996, Chataha’t li’montassafi annahar (Trances for the Midday), (Texts);
- 1997, Al-Ghourfatou l-fa’righa (The Empty Room), (poetry), Jacques Ancet (translation);
- 1998, Hassissou l-hawa’e (Whisper of the Air), collected poetry collections of Bernard Noël (translation);
- 1998, Al-Oubou’r ila dhifa’f zarka’e (Crossing to the Blue Shores), (Texts);
- 1999, Nabidh, (Wine) (two series of poems, bilingual edition: Arabic-French and Arabic-Spanish);
- 1999, Qa’br ibn Arabi yali’h aya’e (Tomb of Ibn Arabi Followed by 99 Stations of Yale), two poetry collections of Abdelawahab Meddeb (translation);
- 2000, Nahr’un bay’na jana’zatai’n (A River between two Funerals), (poetry);
- 2002, Al-A’amalou l-chi’ria (Poetry works), (2 volumes);
- 2002, Al-Islam assia’si (The Malady of Islam) of Abdelwahab Meddeb (translation collaborating with the author);
- 2003, Nabidh, (Wine), (poetry);
- 2004, Al-Hadatha l-ma’atouba (A Broken down Modernity) (cultural diary);
- 2006, Al- Haq fi Achi’ir (Right to poetry), (essays);
- 2007, Hounaka tabk’a (Over there you Stay), (poetry);
- 2007, Rami’atou nard (A Throw of Dice), poem of Stéphane Mallarmé (translation);
- 2010, Al-Kodossi (The Archangélique), collection of poems of Georges Bataille (translation);
- 2010, Kalamou l-jassad (Speech of the Body),(Texts);
- 2011, Sab’atou touyour (Seven Birds), (poetry).
- 2012, Ma’a Asiqa’e (With Friends) (texts).
- 2012, Al-Hadatha l-ma’atouba (A Broken down Modernity) (cultural diary), 2e edition;
- 2012, Tari’kou l-midad (The Ink path), collection of poems of Bernard Noël(translation).
Some translations in English
- Contemporary North Africa: Issues of Development & Integration, Edited by Halim Barakat, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1985.
- Modern Arabic Poetry: an anthology, Salma Khadra Jayyussi, University Press, New York, 1987.
- The New African Poetry: an anthology, Tanure Ojaide and Tijan M. Sallah, editors, Lynne Rienner Publishers, USA, 1999.
- A Crack in the wall: New Arab Poetry, Margaret Obank & Samuel Shimon, SAQI Books, London, 2001.
- Soft Target, Jane Lewis, New York, U.S.A, 2006
- Language for a new century: contemporary poetry from the Middle East, Asia, And Beyond, Edited Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar, W.W Norton & Company, New York, London 2008.
- 'Pierre Joris: an Arabic Islamic Turn in the poem & its thought', in Pierre Joris-Cartographies of the in-between, Edited by Peter Cockelbergh, published by Univerzita Karlava, Prague 2011.
Others publications in
Banipal’sMagazine Modern Arab Literature (London) ‘Three Poems: Bells, The Road to Jerusalem, Between Silence and Sun’, poems, translated by Noel Abdulahad, 2, 56-57; ‘Poems from Hieroglyphics’, ‘Rose of Dust’, translated by Anton Shammas, 5, 21-24; subject of ‘Mohammed Bennis, The free-floating anxiety of existence’ by Subhi Hadidi, 5, 22-23; ‘Selected Poems from the Gift of the Void: Doubts; Place; Silence; Frivolity; Impurity; Blindness; Trance; Lady; Palm; Wish’, translated by James Kirkup, 5, 24-25; ‘1945-2001 Zefzaf – a grand man of Moroccan and Arab letters’, 12, 26; ‘Desert on the brink of light’, translated by James Kirkup, 12, 56-59; ‘Ten poems: Faraway; A Blind Friend; Down there two Wingbeats; Perhaps; Fear; Apparition; Colours; One Drop; One Night and its Dead’, translated by James Kirkup, 19, 20-31; interviewed by Camilo Gomez-Rivas, 29, 114-23; ‘Gift of the Void: Impossible; View; Path; Encounter; Writing; She; Straying; Shades; Safekeeping; Examining; Women; Elsewhere; Wavering; Words; Travel; Over There You Stay: Stones Alone; The Night of the Ruby: Tremor; Red Growing; Road of Fire; Creation; Lord of the Ruby; Surfaces; Storefront’, translated by Camilo Gomez-Rivas, 29, 124-37; The power of his resistance’, translated by Youssef Rakha, 33, 53-55. The Literary Review (USA) North Africa: Literary Crossroads, Vol. 41 No.2, 1998
- Keeping the Language Alive
Interview by Camilo Gomez-Rivas, Banipal, Issue 29, Summer, 2007.
- A Throw of the Dice poem of Stéphane Mallarmé, published in a bilingual edition in common with Isabella Checcaglini and Bernard Noël at Ypsilon Éditeur in Paris, in 2007
- Mohammed Bennis: The Free-Floating Anxiety of Existence
By Subhi Hadidi.
- http://www.jehat.com/Jehaat/en/.../Mohammed-Bennis.htm - En cache - Pages similaires
- Bennis's selected haihu
- The Book of Love (in French)
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (January 2012)|
- Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Arabic poetry, Trajectories of modernity and tradition, Rutledge, London and New York, 2006.p. 20.
- Serif Grafics, London
- Dar Attanwir, Beyrouth-al-Markaz attakafi al-Arabi, Casablanca
- Mohammed Bennis, “Dans le dialogue”, in Les nouveaux enjeux de la francophonie au Maroc, acts of the colloque (du 23 février 2001, Rabat), Ambassade de France au Maroc, p. 59. Olso, for exemple, his letter adresed to Rimbaud, in al Obou’r ila’ Dihfa’f Zarka’e To cross to the Bleu Borders, Tib’r Azzaman, Tunis, 1998, p-p.63-90.
- Mohammed Bennis, Al-Haq fi chi’r (Right to poetry), Dar Toubkal, Casablanca, 2007, p.49.
- Attakafa el-Jadida (The New Culture), Mohammedia, n°19, republished in Modernity of Interrogation (essay) , al Markaz Attafi al-Arabi, Beyrouth-Casabalca, 1985.
- Mohammed Bennis Kita’bat al-Mah’w (Erasure Writing), Editions Toubkal, Casablanca.
- Op. cit.; p.13
- Mohammed Bennis, Bayan al-Kitaba, in Modernity of Interrogation op. cit.; p. 22
- Op.cit.; p 39
- Op. cit., p. 42
- Kita’ba’tu al Mah’w, op. cit.; p.30
- Mohammed Bennis, Al-Aemal Achiria, (Poetry works), al-Moasasa al-Arrabia, Beyriuth-Toubkal, Casablanca, 2002, volume I, p.17
- The hospitality of the other in the poem, in al-Hak fi-Chi’ir, (Wright to poetry), Editions Toubkal, Casabalnca, 2007, p-p.31-32
- Destiny of the poem, destiny of the speech, in al-Hak fi-Chi’ir (Wright to poetry), op cit., p.39
- Op., cit
- The poem and the appeal of promise, in al-Hak fi-Chi’ir, op.cit. p.25
- Mohammed Bennis, Dear poet, in Banipal, Magazine of Modern Arab literature, London, n° 19, Spring 2004, p. 21
- Frontispiece of El Dono del Vacio, Spanish translation of Hiba’t al-Faragh, El Don del Vacío, traducción de Luis Miguel Cañada, ediciones del oriente y del mediterráneo, Madrid, 2006
- Attakafa el Jadida, op. cit., n°21, 1981, p-p. 235-241