Podcast: Seeing the Words of Poets: Muḥammad Bennīs and the Visual in Moroccan Poetry


Frustrated by the fragmented scene of modern Morocco poetry, Moroccan poet and critic Muḥammad Bennīs pens the Bayān al-Kitāba in 1981 (“Manifesto of Writing”). The manifesto, which was published in Al-Thaqafa al-Jadida, a journal Bennīs co-founded in 1974, set forth a new concept of writing steeped in Morocco’s visual culture. Throughout the Bayān, Bennīs calls for the renewal of poetry that is tied to a renewal of ways of seeing. This, he asserts, entails a critical attention to the work of both poetry and criticism, a point which the manifesto addresses as a sore subject and a challenge at the time for Moroccan poetry and poetics. He offers his own pathway, one that meanders through the visuals of the page, the Moroccan script, and the poetic image in order to recharge the body of the poem, and of the poet and reader. Through his attention to both the metaphorical and physical body, Bennīs recalls implicitly and explicitly a sedimented Andalusī poetics that had also marked the body’s importance and poetry’s transformative capacity through its turn to the language of the visual.  

Speaker biography:

Lubna Safi is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and in the Designated Emphasis Program in Critical Theory. She holds an M.A. in Comparative Literature from The Pennsylvania State University, where she completed a thesis on twentieth century Spanish poets and the ways they invoked and mobilized al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia) in order to negotiate Spain’s changing national, racial, and literary identities. Her dissertation, “How the Qaṣīda Sees: Vision, Poetic Knowledge, and the Transformative Capacity of Poetry from al-Andalus to the Maghrib,” examines discourses of visuality and visualization in the poetry and poetics of twelfth- and thirteenth-century al-Andalus and twentieth century Morocco. Engaging literary critical, poetic, and optical sources, the project explores how poets and critics discussed processes of visualization in poetry and the affective responses it engendered as well as its role in individual transformation and collective liberation.


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