Last night, Big Bridge editor Michael Rothenberg (pictured with co-editor Terri Carrion) sent me a note that said, “this is the beginning of a more complete anthology.”

Fifteen Moroccan poets are featured in Big Bridge’s starter-anthology, edited by poet-translator El Habib Louai. Their influences are at least as wide as Darwish, al-Chebbi, T.S. Eliot, and Baudelaire. I was looking for something to surprise me, and I was struck by a number of the poems, and moments in the poems, including the opening of Ikram Abdi’s “Casablanca”:

Nothing but the bodies of floating ice
Bubbles of cold greetings
Swaying over a sea of noise and boredom
But you go
Groping her tired face
With obliterated features

Caressing tufts of its canned sun
Crossing its bleeding streets
With frosty steps
With Bereaved Features
With necktie like gallows
In deserted premises
Keep reading… 

Abdellatif Al Ouarari’s poetry, meanwhile, addresses revolutionary struggles in Tunisia and Egypt. In “The Will to Life,” he re-imagines al-Chebbi’s much-quoted “Will to Life” with more visceral (less romantic) imagery. I suppose I give it quite a different reading today than I would’ve a year ago. But anyhow, engaging in either case. From the middle of the poem, which you can read here :

If people one day aspire for life
Blood grows bright in wounds
Between the windows and cracks
Between the edges of winter
Sparing (Carthage) in such a blinded cloud
Overtaking grass hunger in a slope
Grew in nature’s bounty
Between black visions
Grew on a slow train to (Kairouan),
Rolled through the valley and the chant of remote lands
Grew in metaphors of (the sons of Ahmed) and the obstinate poets without a problem,
Naked in beds it slept
It distrusted the doll bellies and slave singing
They waved from the vehicles of vigilance.
Because Abul Kasim longed to emerge from the silence
Blood grew between his fingers
Jumped out of the chorus (National Musical Choir)
To the streets of the angry, barefoot people
To a street overtaken by self-esteem
Between the holes
Growing tall. Racing against the daily sun. Mumbling. Screaming in the face of his oppressor, throwing stones!

The poems are translated by the anthology’s editor, El Habib Louai. Links to all the poets’ work:

Boujema El Aoufi Idriss Allouch
Mubarak Ouassat Najat Zbair
Saad Sarhan Ikram Abdi
Amal Al Akhdar Mustafa Radki
Jamal Bdouma Abdellatif Al Badadi, translated by El Habib Louai
El Habib Louai Abdellatif Al Ouarari
Mahdi Qeraz Mohamed Mahou
Bouchra Yassine

And more:

More poetry by Boujema El Aoufi on Poetry International Web, trans. into English, Norddine Zouitni

Moubarak Ouassat in French and Arabic, on Jehat 

More by Saad Sarhan in Arabic on Jehat 

More poems by Habib Louai on Indigo Rising, ILR Magazine , and Danse Macabre

Driss Allouch tweets, occasionally.

More from Ikram Abdi on the Ministry of Culture website. 

And Ikram Abdi in Spanish translation 

Mohamed Mahou’s blog