Abdellatif Laâbi and his poetic posers ⇒ Kirno Sohochari

Reader’s allusion: It’s not necessary for the readers who already familiar with Abdellatif Laâbi‘s activism in the postcolonial Arabic sociopolitical culture. His poetic stance helped readers to understand the cultural ambiguities of postcolonial Arab regions. Laâbi’s activism in mid-sixties and seventies appeared as a threat to the former regime of his sullen motherland. His activism in the sixties to mid-eighties told us that, how he frequently eavesdropped, imprisoned, interrogated and finally exiled in France by the Moroccan regime.

Any activism in precolonial and postcolonial regions, in anywhere of the world, obviously sees itself battling against imposed manipulators. The manipulators always imposed and manipulated the society consequently to their game plan. They tried to exploit the society, just for stayed in power and to keep their hegemony eternal. Power seemed appeared curse to the postcolonial countries, in where people was first exploited by the brutal colonial masters, and then they exploited by their own fellows. Second is worse than the first; people’s body-mind simply tortured there by the dual zombies.

Abdellatif Laabi_2_1

… His activism reflects politics, tonality pinched the manipulators; he is social and associative to the previous and contemporary Arab climate, and always tried to maintain detailing when he dedicates his narrative to his sullen motherland. No, Laâbi is not alienated; not drowned into the eternal sadness of lonely survival or nothingness of life; he is not so eager for romantic lust; and despite all this, —a thin line of poser (I don’t know how) silently flows underneath his poetic jargon and symbols. 
… … …

The zombies are not alien like their colonial masters, even though they appeared as a threat to their fellow countryman, because they maintained previous colonial tricks in a new outfit, just manipulates their own brethren. Change is useless if it is abortive to exclude the colonial mentality. It is not necessary to follow the western democracy and so on for any country and nation. Each should have followed its own cultural diversity and societal features before implemented any political system in a society. The postcolonial nations are miserable in that context; in there, change cannot change anything, shifting cannot shift anything; what is happening there is, repetition of rituals that, power is a sacred God and people should not have disobedient to the God.

The most painstaking experience for any postcolonial nation is, they lost their self-confidence that, they can build their self-manifesto standing on their own tradition and culture and belief; not only that, they are able to include any necessary global changes or influences in that manifesto. All over the globe, the postcolonial nation suffered about the absence of something that is required to envisioning their own philosophy in their own ground. Enslavement of human body-mind is a curse, in where Friday lost his self-mastery and bound to judge his self-ability according to the imposed mastery of Robinson Crusoe.

Abdellatif Laabi_5_1

… Poets in anywhere are always sensual to the belief that, a change should autonomous, as like nature; changes should have done according to the rules of nature, in where imposed manipulation or alteration to the national originality interrupted the autonomous flows, and that should be treated as a crime for the nation. 
… … …

Every nation has self-ability to build their nationality by using self-evolved philosophy. They can use it to upgrade their lifestyle, culture, and languages in progress of time. When the ability interrupted and manipulated by somehow, it appeared hard from them, back again to the self-evolved root and move forward to stand on the origin.

Laâbi’s nation is not different in that context. He saw the downfall of his motherland and systematic dilapidation of rulers; he sadly discovered himself as a witness of methodical manipulation of his origin; the poet saw himself inept to prevent the exploitation of culture and alteration of belief in his motherland. 

It’s painstaking for any sentient human being to see the systematic replacement of a society, and depletion of its uniformity through unexpected brutal changes. That mean, the society lost its own philosophical commonsense to see itself in the mirror, to criticize itself in a mirror, and it lost its ability togetherness against the destructive manipulators.

Abdellatif Laabi_12

… The most painstaking experience for any postcolonial nation is, they lost their self-confidence that, they can build their self-manifesto standing on their own tradition and culture and belief; not only that, they are able to include any necessary global changes or influences in that manifesto. All over the globe, the postcolonial nation suffered about the absence of something that is required to envisioning their own philosophy in their own ground.
… … …

Origin and oneness are vague if we tested the words in philosophical nodus; even though society like to see itself governed under some laws that could play an effective role to ensure their so-called oneness! They believe oneness perhaps able to adjust with the inclusive pressure of global changes to its origin. Abdellatif Laâbi is a poet in his blood and soul. Poets in anywhere are always sensual to the belief that, a change should autonomous, as like nature; changes should have done according to the rules of nature, in where imposed manipulation or alteration to the national originality interrupted the autonomous flows, and that should be treated as a crime for the nation. Reformation is necessary but it should have done according to the objective that, it would be unified the nation amid their individual differences, freedom of choices, openness and varied diversities.

Laâbi’s artistic journal Souffles tried to raise the poetic vision accumulated the artists and intellectuals of Morocco in those rebellious days of the late sixties and seventies. The Journal had a massive impression in the intellectual circuit of the entire Arab region, but it was not comfortable to the former regime. They banned it and later exiled its editor in France. Laâbi’s poetical vision located itself in French jargon by containing the Arabic streams to its soul. He tried to cross the language barrier, was trying to be international through French, but never hid his emotion to back the roots as a Moroccan and Arab. I think there is no need to say more about his eternal desire of traveling his motherland, kissed the land as a Moroccan, and getting entrance to the soul of his sullen motherland likely any other exiled citizen.

Abdellatif Laabi_9

Abdellatif Laâbi’s feeling and emotion for his motherland reminded me Aimé Césaire‘s deep sensation for his motherland and for the eternal negritude of African minds. In his entire journey, Césaire always wanted to be a giant tree looking to the tree. He wanted to save his nation from the rude sunshine, as a tree always appeared as a shed to the wayfarer. Laâbi’s desire is not distant to Césaire. He always wanted to back his sullen motherland with hope and promises, wanted to cross the barricade with jaw-breaking promise and rage.

He was perhaps the inspiration for many Arab poets who were fighting (and still be) for freedom, for peace, for land-settlement, and against exile. Despite all, Laâbi has some fair distance to all of them. His desires, promises, hope, and sadness is analogical with Césaire and lot other exiled, even though, he is different amid them. Sort of his poems (as much as we get and read in English translation) contained such kind of philosophical agony, which is not widely common in the poetic gestures of other exiled poets.

His activism reflects politics, tonality pinched the manipulators; he is social and associative to the previous and contemporary Arab climate, and always tried to maintain detailing, when he dedicates his narrative to his sullen motherland. No, Laâbi is not alienated; not drowned into the eternal sadness of lonely survival or nothingness of life; he is not so eager for romantic lust; and despite all this, a thin line of a poser (I don’t know how) silently flows underneath his poetic jargon and symbols. I especially admire him for this.

Abdellatif Laabi_3_1

… It is not necessary to follow the western democracy and so on for any country and nation. Each should have followed its own cultural diversity and societal features before implemented any political system in a society. The postcolonial nations are miserable in that context; in there, change cannot change anything, shifting cannot shift anything; what is happening there is, repetition of rituals that power is a sacred God and people should not have disobedient to the God.
… … …

To me, his posers (and bit philosophical nodus) are intentional to judge the destiny of human life, wanted to pinch the inner nothingness and purposelessness of life too. Maybe my opinion seemed disagreeable to Laâbi’s readers, but reading is always an open window, in where reader read a content according to use his/her own vision and thoughts. Laâbi maybe always interpreted by the world for his intellectual activism and for his poetical rebellion, maybe he will be interpreted later for his beauty and allegory, which he frequently applied in his poems to express his emotion for the sullen nation and Arabic root. I have no intention to deny this all, a text can read in many ways and it should be.

However, to me, I love this living legend for his (maybe fewer) contribution to writing such poetry which touched my heart and leaned my soul in the restless “Nothingness”, in where existence always waits to be reborn over-and-again. Readers, I tried to pick sort kind of poem from Laâbi’s huge activism, just to rest my unrest soul for a moment.

Poetic Posers of Abdellatif Laâbi

My Mother’s Language Poem
by Abdellatif Laâbi

It’s been twenty years since I last saw my mother
She starved herself to death
They say that each morning
she would pull her headscarf off
and strike the floor seven times
cursing the heavens and the Tyrant
I was in the cave
where convicts read in the dark
and painted the bestiary of the future on the walls
It’s been twenty years since I last saw my mother
She left me a china coffee set
and though the cups have broken one by one
they were so ugly I didn’t regret their loss
even though coffee’s the only drink I like
These days, when I’m alone
I start to sound like my mother
or rather, it’s as if she were using my mouth
to voice her profanities, curses and gibberish
the invisible litany of her nicknames
all the endangered species of her sayings
It’s been twenty years since I last saw my mother
but I am the last man
who still speaks her language.

Source of poem: Poem Hunter.com;

Knowledge Is Unforgiving Poem
by Abdellatif Laâbi

Knowledge is unforgiving
It gnaws at you
What are you guilty of?
Something forgotten
or overdone?
To feel yourself burning with the words
you draped over the unnameable,
pinned to your seat
while sipping your coffee?
Dare to say it:
despite being free of evil
you are its hostage
Can we melt the executioner’s heart
change human nature?
No one has the answer
redemption, Redemption
you murmur
that insoluble equation

Source of poem: Poem Hunter.com;

Poems Fallen from the Train
by Abdellatif Laâbi

Tears flood
the eyes of the sphinx
for the riddle has killed so many

The bird
let us say the turtle-dove
cares not a jot
about disorder
his song
is not a response
to worry about the ephemeral

This light
is not for describing
it is drunk
or eaten

A leaf trembles
or does not live

The poem is concerned
by the threat of extermination
it gathers stones
just in case. . .

Yellow is waiting for blue
who is dallying with green
white smiles
at this ordinary scene
of amorous resentment

Wine is permitted
drink, comrade
you have nothing to forget
by drinking you remember

Inhabiting your body
is not easy
it is a haunted house
a minefield
One ought to be able to rent it
just for the holidays

What is beautiful
is beautiful immediately
universally

Is it an injustice
if women are more beautiful
than men?

Ugliness
in any case
is unjust

The almond-tree in flower
is not subject to criticism

If I write
it is so as not to despise myself

Every woman sleeping
is making love

Majesty of the tree
he reigns but does not rule
does not take harsh measures
does not raise taxes
does not draft the young
does not possess a virgin
every night
does not need to lie
He is the perfectly just
monarch

I am quite willing
to shoulder your woes
but why should mine
not concern you?

If I threw myself
under the wheels of a train
I would truly pity you

Asking for the moon
should be
the lowest common denominator

Reading sometimes means
being humiliated for not writing

The dew
is just water
but it is water in love

Today
words stretch luxuriously
and yawn
they are peach-hued

It is defeats
that teach us
generosity

I don’t deny it
writing is a luxury
but it is the only luxury
whereby man
exploits only himself

The prophet destroys idols
the tyrant
erects statues

I have suffered from
a few diseases
and empathize with sufferers
from all others
but I have never understood
the money and power disease
Should I empathize
in this case too?

Privileges depreciate

I deserve nothing
Nothing deserves me
I am done
with gratitude
and ingratitude

Let History judge, they say
Another trial!

Waiting
is my bête noire

I open the window
to my secret garden
The predators have pillaged everything
they have even taken
the secret of my garden

Many a time
I feel diminished
even guilty in a way
when people congratulate me

I read much into the smiles of others
but I don’t know what my own
is made of

I have condemned my children
to the burden I carry
Should I put it down
to free them of it?

I get anxious
when I no longer dream

There should be
a dream bank
after the fashion of blood banks

The smile
cannot be learnt
it is a gift

I expect nothing of life
I go
to meet it

The bite of the days. Fallow love. The quartered horse. Wild ink. The contagious rose. Isle of marble. Blind man’s vomit. The name of mud. The absent-minded god. Wise bullets. Crippled sheets. The cage of the heavens. White coffee. The sobbing of things. Northern leprosy. The mouth’s little lakes. Potter’s field of crowned heads. The nomad flame. Ashes of words.

You can fall head over heels in love
with a word
A word comes to meet you
and gives you
the key to the whole work

Source of poem:
Bomb Magazine: Two poems of Abdellatif Laâbi,
Translated by Donald Nicholson Smith;

Talisman’s Eye
by Abdellatif Laâbi

everything dies
patched-up brain down in crypts
                                                            dies
dies
             logos of cities
reason dies
                       crushed by wrinkles
with no help from hands
brain with its gray cells
                                            dies
night approaches with so much telling
                                                                of rosaries
for the break of a new day
as the sphinxes say
                                    when none is possible
they themselves having grown old
weary of their alliance
                                          with the wind 

now
I seek a language
                                  for my tribe
that is not a hybrid
let cyclones of argan trees
                                                 come join my legions

halter of wasps
                             around my throat of clay
my awful lucidity
like a mirror
                             rusty with memories
that are the butt of History

now I know what power inhabits me
peoples run through my language
while flaming night
                                      constructs silence
with hammer blows
                              I compose lullabies

my awful lucidity
that ruffles my voice
                                         to the caravans’ cadence
my awful lucidity
that carves me out an era
                                   as wide as the desert

now
        I need to vomit up
                                          layers of narcotics
and steaming manure
                                        words of reason pale as herb tea
and throw away books that taught me pride

here I am
                  present
night-hairy
                       bristling with wasps
with that perfume of the muscles
that camel’s boniness
ready to bound down the road
                                                 yelping

look and see if my breasts
                                                are not bursting with maledictions
leave me only a few blood vessels
just a few nerves
                                nothing but a finger
and I shall outline on my parchment
a new cosmogony
                                 its elements in perfect harmony

hear the clash of languages
                                                 in my mouth
the thirst for new births
hear the swish of sweat
                                              at my underarms
the ripple of my biceps
driven by my inner fauna
                                                 springing from caves
pen bloodied
                          my head on every wall
my breath at the gallop
spewing planets
                              in its eruptions

here I am
                  torrential in full flood
working my crannies
craters overlooked in my incandescence
I Atlas
              striped by the sun
                                                 of diurnal tribes
gathering up in my descents and ravines
the impatient foam of a future
ask the vultures what my venom tastes like
ruggedness of my grip
                                           iron grid of my maledictions
proclaimer I am
                                    building a kingdom
                                                                          of insubordination

do not seek me in your archives
fearful of my censure
                                         writing is not in my nature
look for me rather in your innards
when a host of worms
                                        distorts your gut
look for me in the urine of fever
in the malaria of the backstreets
and there
                  in the mud of cataracts
erase my taboo names
                                         stamp out the spells that I cast
but at my call
break jars of honey
slit the throats of black bulls at mosque doors
feed beggars by the thousands
then I shall come
                                to spit in your mouth
destroy your tumors
                                 rid you of your ancient ills
I still prefer you
                                 in the straightness of your plowshares
my brothers with your rough hands
my brothers who sleep like roots

come
            tossed down
                                   overboard
stranger to the trajectory of planets
between sky and void
sprung forth
                        in the blink of an eye
                                                                    at the birth of speech

I know nothing of weight
or the mathematics of revolution
Arab
            Berber
above all human
but with this indestructible voice
                                                             this mark

come from your tomorrows
                                                      gravedigger of ruins
not to take upon myself
                                                     the errors of the night
but unrestrainedly
                                                      to hammer with doorknockers
until every doorway
                                                       offers up its logarithms

yes
       I slumber
in mountain salt mines
an ear hearkening to the wheel of time
I let new arms grow
                                     to enhance an awakening
I laugh yes I laugh in my dream
look at my eyelids
seeded by caravaneers
and my terrifying eye
                                          accurate
as a sandglass

Source of poem:
Bomb Magazine: Two poems of Abdellatif Laâbi,
Translated by Donald Nicholson Smith;

Death: A Poem
by Abdellatif Laâbi

Here I am aged thirtythree
years
and I too start to think
about death
but simply my own
which might come any day now
and is an experience with which
I must settle some scores
These aren’t bleak ideas
or a case of ‘existential angst’
no
since I must be in prison for many years
where each day and each night
comes courtesy of my torturers
this is just me being realistic
Death of mine
I want you to be sweet like those happy dreams
where despite all the obstacles
I reach the end of the maze
and catch and stroke my beloved wife’s hand
remembering the real colour of her eyes
feeling the petallike
tear
form in the torch of her pupil
Sweet is how I want you
a single image
that sums the splendour of the human onslaught
all the promises offered by life
I want you to be
like a quivering ray of dawnlight
a forest of hands that carpets the planet
and warm laughter and furious drums
and f lutes that banish the same old solitudes
You’ll be free to tap me on the shoulder then
death of mine
and I’ll follow you without a trace of reluctance
I won’t leave behind me
either a hidden treasure
or any real estate
merely a few words
for the second coming of man
and this miraculous tenderness
that allows me
death of mine
to defy your mechanical stare
and slip into a peaceful sleep
knowing that my dreams
won’t crumble into dust
like my husk of a body,
but will bloom on the paths
that men will walk down on
while exchanging their views
and embracing
and continuing the struggle

Source of poem:
World literature today,
Translated by Andre Naffis Sahely;
Read more poems of Abdellatif Laâbi in Poem Hunter;

… and despite all this, a thin line of a poser (I don’t know how) silently flows underneath his poetic jargon and symbols…

Abdellatif Laabi_4

Photo Credit: Great Waves of Vigilance by  in The Paris ReviewAbdellatif Laàbi? Bi in FezQuarterly conversation: Laabi’s interview; Theater on stage; Circle of poetry: Labbi’s poems; Labbi’s quotes: az quotes; Souffles: Stanford press; Lesiteinfo: Souffles;
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