Working on Maghrebi anthology here in Paris — Habib Tengour will be here shortly, so I’ll post in some haste — and translating poets for inclusion. Here are a few poems by Abdelmadjid Kaouah, born in Aïn-Taya, near Algiers, in 1954. After the 1994 assassination of his friends Tahar Djaout et Youcef Sebti he exiled himself to the Toulouse areas where he works as a writer and journalist. he is the author of a dozen or so volumes of poetry.
Over there Algiers
behind fogs of images
& forests of salacious billboards
a little girl sews up
her mother’s neck
before climbing back into
Forty-three years old
break the silence
Louis the Fourteenth
When will you finally
shave off that beard
21 June 1994
There in a hotel lobby
Listening to a bitter sweet music
Barely different from the one
Supermarkets pipe in for ambience’s sake.
How often haven’t I sworn to myself not to break
the line again.
To write in a dignified prose. Having all the appearances of a writing in prose, prosaic in fact. To the point of maintaining no link, no matter how confidential with poetry, that incestuous sister. Poetry, that heavily made up disrespectful one.
To mask an age of no interest to any client. One takes out one’s pen, it could be one’s sex, one points to the margin and one spreads one’s shadow and the ink in between the lines. At the other end of the margin, the margin of the invisible, one goes limp, instantly, by instinct.
Ever since there is no more rime, one adds more grime to the make up. Poetry, one spreads it on any handy mattress with or without springs, no one give’s a hoot. One will trust in some obscurity of the language to look poetic, lyrical, epic…, depending on the needs of a hypothetical market.
A few tics.
Interlaced with soundproof tick-tocks. A few metaphors, or even ritornellos and, presto, here are, made from odds and ends, vast semaphores to guide imaginary boats.
When the poet himself amuses
He believes in muses, they’re his excuses and vain ruses.
night’s coming to rest, faster than the day, on simulacra. The sun hastens on its way between the Diagonal and the Passeig de Gracia, skirting the Crayon.
I write these lines without haste in the lobby of the Majestic, so far from Bab-el-Oued,
just to wait for the first metro
The night servants pass the vacuum cleaner between two conferences on boredom punctuated by the languorous violins of a Strauss disguised as a groom.
I write this thick and heavy prose.
Will it pass for
June 9, 1996