abdallah-zrikaOne night in December 1953, lightning tore the Casablanca sky, greeting the birth of a poet, "the craziest, the most brilliant Arab poet of these times", somebody later wrote about Abdallah Zrika. Probably also the most tormented: "This is not a pen, but a pickaxe to demolish the poet who tyrannizes me", he wrote himself. Abdallah Zrika grew up in a poor quarter, the central quarries of Casablanca, the biggest shanty town in Morocco, but his childhood there was a happy one. "I had a link with the earth, the plants, the birds…", he recounts. "My imagination was always awake". Conversely, Zrika finds the city too tidy, too neat, "too white"… like its inhabitants; kind, but flat characters, lacking texture, whereas he could see texture everywhere. The slightest piece of wasteland, the slightest trash dump – and they were many – would project him into endless imaginary spirals. Objects have always inspired Abdallah, often appearing to him more human than people. As a child he was struck by a blue velvet notebook cover in which his elder sister carefully kept her letters. From this Zrika drew conviction for the rest of his life, that "words are a precious thing, everything can live in them… and especially poetry, the ultimate threshold of words." And they can be precious to the point that they become dangerous to handle, as Zrika experienced when he was sentenced to prison for two years for "poetry offence". Zrika’s poems seek to break with the dominant concept of poetry as high culture and instead integrate the language of everyday life into literature. His poetry is non-programmatic, untrammeled associative speech with a spontaneity unsurpassed in modern Arabic literature. ‘I fear the table because those who gather there to eat gather there to kill’ For the Moroccan youth, the hugely popular Abdallah Zrika represents an ideal, the freedom to live and to tell.

 

Publications

 
Dance of the head and the rose, 1977
Rires de l’arbre à palabres, l’Harmattan, 1982
Black Candles;  La Différence (Paris), 1998
Petites Proses, L’Escampette, 1998
Echelles de la Métaphysique, L’Escampette, 2000
The Colour of Distance; ed. Stefan Weidner, Beck Verlag, 2000