Zajal — the Darija Poets of Morocco

11 April, 2022
On a farm in Moroc­co, with Driss Mes­naoui and Saîda Chbar­bi (pho­to cour­tesy Deb­o­rah Kapchan).

 

Deborah Kapchan

 

Our busi­ness is to count the stars, star by star
to chew the wind’s haughty arrogance
and watch the clouds for when they’ll throw us a hand­ful 

and if the earth goes far away from us
we’ll say every­one is possessed
            every­one has lost their mind
            and time, nev­er will its let­ters fall between our hands
            until we write what we are

Driss Mes­naoui 1995:73

 

Count­ing the Stars
Zajal: poet­ry in dialect. There is a long his­to­ry of the form in oral lit­er­a­ture. Poets in mar­ket­places and pub­lic squares, sto­ry­tellers recount­ing epics in vers­es those around them can under­stand. As any Arab will tell you, Moroc­can Ara­bic is about as far from Mod­ern Stan­dard as one can get, infused as it is with syn­tax and vocab­u­lary from Tamazight, the lan­guage of the authoc­tho­nous Amazigh­in of North Africa, and spiced with Span­ish and French. And yet, the move­ment for writ­ing in Moroc­can Ara­bic, or Dar­i­ja, began decades ago. The moth­er tongue yields secrets that clas­si­cal Ara­bic nev­er will. It is about emo­tion­al res­o­nance. The prob­lem, how­ev­er, is one of trans­lata­bil­i­ty, of reach­ing into the cul­tur­al depths of the genre, not only in its oral form, but now in its writ­ten incar­na­tions. Zajal often remains local and its poets, though pro­lif­ic, are rarely known out­side of Morocco.

I encoun­tered two promi­nent Dar­i­ja poets in 1995. 

Ahmed Lem­syeh and I met in Rabat. At that time, Lem­syeh was a school­teacher and an activist in the Ichti­ra­ki social­ist par­ty. More than that, he was already one of Morocco’s finest poets, who often pub­lished his work in chap­books and in one of the dai­ly news­pa­pers, Al Itti­had Al Ichti­ra­ki. Lemsyeh’s was the first diwan, or poet­ry col­lec­tion, pub­lished in Darija.

Poet­ic Jus­tice is the most exten­sive col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary Moroc­can poets in trans­la­tion. Order a copy EU/US.

I had come on a Ful­bright to study Moroc­can per­for­mance tra­di­tions. After inde­pen­dence in 1956, Moroc­can artists want­ed to define an authen­tic Moroc­can the­atre. Tired of per­form­ing Molière in French and Shake­speare in Ara­bic, they turned to the halqa, an old form of Moroc­can enter­tain­ment, com­bin­ing sto­ry­telling with satire. Lit­er­al­ly mean­ing a link in a chain, the halqa is a cir­cle of peo­ple with a per­former in the cen­ter, an inter­ac­tive space of humor and a demon­stra­tion of ver­bal and ges­tur­al acu­ity, per­formed in Moroc­can dialect, Dari­ja. My first book was an ethnog­ra­phy of these per­for­mances in the Moroc­can mar­ket­place, includ­ing the emer­gent voic­es of women. I had read the trea­tis­es on the halqa by the­o­rist Abdelkrim Berrechid and play­wright Tayyeb Sad­diqi. I had read the works of Juan Goyti­so­lo, the Span­ish expa­tri­ate writer liv­ing in Mar­rakech who evoked these scenes. I came to Rabat to attend the plays where­in the trope of the halqa was employed.

In 1995, how­ev­er, Mohammed the Fifth The­ater was closed for repairs. Or for some­thing. Was this about cen­sor­ship? In Moroc­co, as in many coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, the cri­tique is often hid­den in sym­bols and in sto­ries that take place in anoth­er time. Moroc­can the­ater in dialect was one forum for this social cri­tique. It was bawdy and vir­tu­osic. But although the main the­ater was closed, there was a small annex in the back that remained open. And there, on my way home from Rabat’s Kalila and Dim­na book­store one late after­noon, I stum­bled through the open door into a per­for­mance of zajal. The audi­ence was ohh­hing and ahhi­ing, enrapt with the words, and send­ing up affir­ma­tions like “allah!” as if at a musi­cal con­cert. I did not under­stand every­thing I was hear­ing, but I wait­ed until the per­for­mance was over, then intro­duced myself to the poet, Ahmed Lem­syeh. And so a friend­ship, and a project was born.

Lem­syeh was very artic­u­late about why it was nec­es­sary to write in the moth­er tongue. It held the secrets of cul­ture, he said. While Amer­i­can anthro­pol­o­gists thought the word “cul­ture” made sweep­ing, dam­ag­ing gen­er­al­iza­tions, Moroc­can poets and artists sought to make it as salient as pos­si­ble. The metaphor­i­cal den­si­ty of Dari­ja res­onat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly than clas­si­cal Ara­bic. Would an Ital­ian write poems in Latin?

Lem­syeh drew his mate­r­i­al from old sources like Sidi Abder­rah­man al-Maj­dub, a Moroc­can Sufi mys­tic. Al-Maj­dub was still cit­ed in the halqa cen­turies lat­er. Lem­syeh didn’t quote his qua­trains direct­ly but made allu­sions in such a way as to revive the auditor’s mem­o­ries of child­hood, while cre­at­ing some­thing entire­ly new. He was a mas­ter crafts­man of words. Lis­ten­ing to him, audi­ences would swoon.

I had already been ini­ti­at­ed into the genre of al-mal­hun — sung poet­ry from the 14th cen­tu­ry, also in Dari­ja. My friend El Houcine Aggour, my roommate’s boyfriend in Beni Mel­lal, had lis­tened to it non­stop when we were all liv­ing togeth­er in 1982. After prepar­ing a sump­tu­ous tajine or cous­cous for us, he would put on a tape of El Hadj Toulali singing a song about al-dablij, “a bracelet” that a suit­or bought for his beloved and then lost. We learned Ara­bic this way, through lis­ten­ing to a Moroc­can genre.

“We are hav­ing a read­ing in the park down­town on Thurs­day,” Lem­syeh told me. “Come. I will intro­duce you to the oth­er zajalin.”

When Thurs­day arrived, I walked to the park short­ly after the after­noon call to prayer. There was a seashell stage. Peo­ple were begin­ning to con­gre­gate, men and women, many stu­dents, and oth­er lovers of words. Lem­syeh greet­ed me. “I’m about to go on. I’ll speak to you lat­er,” he said, and took the stage.

Lem­syeh read from his most recent pub­li­ca­tion, Shkyn tarz al-ma? (Who Embroi­dered the Water?)

Time sneezed
And space expanded
A ray of sun swelled
And sleep shortened
The skein got tan­gled and I couldn’t find the tip of the string 

Lis­ten to Ahmed Lem­syeh read­ing excerpts from “Watch­ing the Soul”:

Lem­syeh read on, encour­aged by the thrall of the audi­ence. “Give me your atten­tion,” he said, “and use my words…Make a dif­fer­ence between the slaugh­ter­er and those who just bark. Silence has become their weapon.” This was social cri­tique and a call to arms. He drew upon imagery from the bled — the Moroc­can inte­ri­or; skeins and looms and weav­ing. He used idioms not found in clas­si­cal Ara­bic – like “lis­ten­ing to the bones.” He talked about as-sirr, the secret, a ref­er­ence to Sufism.

When Lem­syeh was fin­ished, anoth­er poet took the stage. He was with his young son. They read togeth­er, the father’s voice com­mand­ing, the son an appren­tice. This was Driss Mes­naoui and his eldest child, Nafiss. Mes­naoui also read from his recent pub­li­ca­tion, enti­tled with one let­ter: waw [و ]. In Ara­bic lit­er­a­ture this char­ac­ter is used like a punc­tu­a­tion mark, mean­ing “and.” /و/ sig­nals both the end of one thought and the begin­ning of the next. It is the word that con­nects. And this is the rea­son, he told me lat­er, that he enti­tled his diwan this way. In Sufism, he said, /و/ is also the breath. When joined with the let­ter ha — /هو /it means He or God. Huwa hu, the Sufis chant. He is He, or in eso­teric trans­la­tion, I am that I am. (Huwa hu huwa hu huwa hu huwa hu. I myself would be chant­i­ng this with a group of Sufi women in Casablan­ca not long after our conversation.)

Mes­naoui was not only a mys­tic, he was also a social his­to­ri­an and crit­ic. That day he read a poem about the Rif upris­ing, the colo­nial war between the Span­ish and the autochtho­nous Amazigh of the Rif moun­tains from 1911–1927. The Moroc­cans were led by Abdelka­rim al-Khat­tabi, a gueril­la who spoke Tar­if­fit (the north­ern Amazigh lan­guage) and Span­ish. He resist­ed occu­pa­tion and his army was suc­cess­ful for many years, until the French joined with the Span­ish and used chem­i­cal weapons to defeat the rebel­lion: “The crowd drank us before we entered the city/ wor­ry we wore it/ as we wore the wounds of the swords of deceit.” His voice resound­ed across the park.

those who need­ed a boat became, them­selves, a ship
those who gave birth to us
hunger ate them before they could eat
those who raised us
the grave swal­lowed them before they could dig 

we found fast­ing the med­i­cine for hunger
our thirst drank our tears

Lis­ten to Driss Mesnaoui:

The audi­ence was cap­ti­vat­ed and I under­stood why. He spoke with pas­sion and pres­ence. Like Lem­syeh, he was an attrac­tive man, per­haps in his mid to late for­ties, just a bit old­er than me at the time. He had a grav­i­tas about him, but was also warm and hum­ble. The mes­sage was his­tor­i­cal but had clear con­tem­po­rary resonance. 

There was a chill in the air, the sun was begin­ning to set, and the read­ing end­ed. Lem­syeh came over to me. “I want to intro­duce you to Si Driss,” he said. We both walked over to where Mes­naoui and his son were standing.

“This is Deb­o­rah,” Lem­syeh said. “She is an Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor doing research on zajal.

Mes­naoui greet­ed me warm­ly. “Per­haps we can get togeth­er some­time soon,” I suggested.

“With plea­sure,” he answered in Dar­i­ja. “Here is my num­ber.” Mes­naoui wrote it on the bot­tom of a hand­writ­ten poem and hand­ed it to me.

“I’ll give you a call soon,” I promised. And he and Nafiss were off.

Lem­syeh and I walked past the Mohamed V The­ater, up the hill toward Place Petri and entered his apart­ment. There were already sev­er­al peo­ple there, sit­ting in a large liv­ing room on ban­quettes. Lem­syeh intro­duced me to his wife, Ami­na. She was a politi­cian with a seat in the Moroc­can par­lia­ment — one of the only women in high­er office at the time. Like Lem­syeh, who insist­ed I call him Ahmed, she was in the social­ist par­ty. She was prepar­ing to go to Bei­jing for the World Con­fer­ence on Women as their representative.

“Marha­ba,” she wel­comed me. “Sit down. We’ll talk lat­er,” and she went back to the kitchen to super­vise the women prepar­ing the food.

Writ­ers of many gen­res were there that night: nov­el­ists, jour­nal­ists and pub­lic intel­lec­tu­als. They all belonged to the Moroc­can Writer’s Union. Ahmed was care­ful to intro­duce me to the zajalin — the poets writ­ing in dialect. I met Mourad El Kadiri, the future pres­i­dent of the Moroc­can House of Poet­ry. Although most of the guests were men, among the four women was Wafaa Lam­rani, a woman of great beau­ty and charm, who wrote pas­sion­ate­ly about love in clas­si­cal Ara­bic. She was the sen­sa­tion in the writ­ing world that year, and the din­ner was large­ly to cel­e­brate the pub­li­ca­tion of her recent book, Ready for You. Wafaa invit­ed me to a read­ing she was giv­ing in Tang­i­er and I accept­ed, despite the fact that it was six hours away by train.

Ahmed came over. “La bas? Every­thing all right? Did you get some­thing to eat? You know I wish Si Driss would join us…”

“He’s a very tal­ent­ed poet,” I said.

“He is,” Ahmed echoed. “And he stays clear of politics.”

I under­stood then that the lines between the Moroc­can Writer’s Union and the social­ist par­ty were thin.

 


 

Driss Mes­naoui (pho­to cour­tesy Deb­o­rah Kapchan).

I went to see Driss Mes­naoui soon after, tak­ing a taxi across the bridge and into Salé. Mes­naoui lived in one of many sim­i­lar-look­ing build­ings in a new devel­op­ment on the out­skirts of town. It was a hot after­noon. The taxi dri­ver had to cir­cle around the unpaved streets look­ing for his build­ing, rais­ing thick dust in the air around us. We final­ly found it. There was no buzzer, so I trudged up four floors to what I hoped was the right apartment. 

His wife Sai­da wel­comed me with such pro­fu­sive warmth that I imme­di­ate­ly felt like an old friend. Their place was hum­ble but clean, with an upright piano in the liv­ing room. Sai­da made tea, serv­ing it with the kind of Moroc­can sweets I find irre­sistible: marzi­pan gazelle horns, peanut but­ter drops, and rich but­ter cook­ies. “All made at home,” she assured me. But these sweets were only meant to open the appetite for the meal that followed.

I told Driss that I was trained in thaqafa shafawiyya, oral cul­ture, and that I had writ­ten about the halqa. Like most peo­ple, he was delight­ed I took such a deep inter­est in his cul­ture, and com­pli­ment­ed me on my lev­el of Ara­bic. He told me he was a school­teacher from a rur­al vil­lage on the way to Mek­nes. His par­ents had a farm there.

His son Nafiss joined us for the meal, along with his younger broth­er Amine who was the pianist. After a green pea, arti­choke, and lamb tagine,  Amine played a Chopin sonata. He was ten years old and his play­ing was impressive. 

Mes­naoui told me why he wrote in Dar­i­ja. Like Lem­syeh, he felt it expressed what clas­si­cal Ara­bic could not. It res­onat­ed more deeply. “The prob­lem is,” he said, “In Moroc­co, lit­er­a­cy is still not what it should be. Peo­ple read news­pa­pers per­haps, but lit­er­a­ture…” he shook his head. “It’s a big prob­lem here.”

I told him about the lit­er­a­cy project that I had worked on in both El Ksi­ba and Mar­rakech, about the tests we’d admin­is­tered to the chil­dren once a year, the inter­views with their par­ents I’d done. “It seems to be get­ting a lit­tle bet­ter.” [1]

“Yes, shwia b‑shwia al-haja mqdiya, lit­tle by lit­tle things get done,” he said, recit­ing a Moroc­can proverb. “Still, peo­ple read news­pa­pers, but not much else.” 

“Do you also pub­lish your poems in the news­pa­per?” I asked. Lemsyeh’s poems were often there.

“I don’t,” he said. “I don’t belong to a par­ty. I like to keep my inde­pen­dence. The news­pa­pers only pub­lish their own.” 

There were sev­er­al news­pa­pers on the stands each morn­ing — one social­ist, one com­mu­nist, and sev­er­al roy­al­ist. Moroc­cans knew the affil­i­a­tions of each one. Some bought copies of all of them, to get a fuller pic­ture. Lem­syeh was a social­ist, and a vocal one at that. As I not­ed ear­li­er, his poems in Dari­ja were often in Al Itti­had Al Ichti­ra­ki. Mes­naoui quick­ly changed the sub­ject and looked at me with warmth in his eyes: “Nhar kabir hada! This is a big day,” he pro­claimed. Moroc­cans say this when they are in the pres­ence of an hon­ored guest. As the junior schol­ar at this gath­er­ing, I blushed. “Nhar kabir liya ana,” I insist­ed. “It’s a big day for me.”

Mes­naoui then asked Nafiss to read us one of his own Dar­i­ja poems and he oblig­ed, stand­ing in front of the table. He read a short verse by heart, with con­fi­dence and con­vic­tion. He was clear­ly a poet-in-training.

Qasm-nah taam, we’ve bro­ken bread,” Mes­naoui said as I was leav­ing. “We’re friends. We need to see each oth­er more often.”

Aji aand-nah bzaf, come to us often.” Sai­da said. “Marhababik, you’re always welcome.”

 


 

Poet Ahmed Lemsyeh.

The next day I went to a book­store spe­cial­iz­ing in Ara­bic lit­er­a­ture. It was on Avenue Moulay Abdel­lah next to the Sep­tième Art Cinéma. 

“I’m look­ing for zajal,” I said. 

“It’s in the poet­ry sec­tion,” the sell­er replied, walk­ing with me to the back. 

I took books by Lem­syeh and Mes­naoui off the shelves, as well as one by El Kadiri — all writ­ers in dialect. Then I perused the sec­tion of clas­si­cal Ara­bic for Wafaa Lamrani’s oeu­vre. One of her books was sealed in plas­tic wrap­ping. I’d under­stand why when I got home: it was illus­trat­ed with erot­ic draw­ings by the Moroc­can artist Mohamed Mele­hi. There were sex­u­al pol­i­tics in these pub­li­ca­tions as well.  I left with so many books I could hard­ly car­ry them home. This was the begin­ning of a twen­ty-five year project trans­lat­ing Moroc­can poet­ry into English.

In his vol­ume enti­tled La Poésie Maro­caine: de l’Independence à Nos Jours, Abdel­latif Laâbi posits that lan­guages them­selves may con­tain a “hard nut of iden­ti­ty” (un noy­au dur d’identité) and asks if it is “pos­si­ble, or even legit­i­mate, to crack this nut.” In my work, I do not attempt to pry open what resists trans­la­tion so much as to infuse its mate­ri­al­i­ty into Eng­lish verse, to ren­der the smells and tastes of Moroc­can poet­ry for an Anglo­phone audi­ence. Trans­lat­ing poet­ry is enter­ing into the mind of anoth­er’s being, med­i­ta­tions and despair. Inso­far as poet­ry is a repos­i­to­ry for a col­lec­tive spir­it (not that it always is), trans­lat­ing poet­ry is also dis­cern­ing a sub­strate of social ontolo­gies, ways of being accrued over cen­turies. While roman­ti­ciz­ing a nation­al spir­it may lead to the gross­est of fas­cisms, it is nonethe­less pos­si­ble to speak of what Deleuze and Guat­tari call a milieu — the vibra­tions of a ter­ri­to­ry, formed by the sto­ries that have lived there, as well as the songs, lan­guages, and oth­er prac­tices embed­ded in its history.

Poet­ic Jus­tice: An Anthol­o­gy of Con­tem­po­rary Moroc­can Poet­ry was pub­lished 26 years after my first encoun­ters with Lem­syeh and Mes­naoui. Of course much has changed in the Moroc­can lit­er­ary world since then. New poets are on the scene. But Lem­syeh and Mes­naoui con­tin­ue to pub­lish pro­lif­i­cal­ly. They are the doyens of poet­ry in Darija.

The pan­dem­ic as well as the exi­gen­cies of life have inter­vened in recent years and pre­vent­ed my year­ly vis­its to Moroc­co. The last time I saw Ahmed Lem­syeh, it was around his din­ner table with his wife Ami­na. I had been there many, many times before, par­tak­ing of their hos­pi­tal­i­ty and watch­ing their chil­dren, and now grand­chil­dren grow up. He had just pub­lished his 25th book, and was busy col­lab­o­rat­ing on a YouTube per­for­mance of music and his recit­ed poetry.

I also vis­it­ed Driss Mes­naoui that year on his farm out­side Mek­nes, where he and Sai­da have retired. We ate on their ter­race, sur­round­ed by fruits trees and rows of leafy veg­eta­bles, drink­ing fliu, fresh spearmint tea from their gar­den. In his last let­ter he told me about his recent pub­li­ca­tions, the con­fer­ences he’s been attend­ing on zajal, and the dis­ser­ta­tions that stu­dents are now writ­ing about the move­ment to write in dialect. ما قدمته لي شخصيا عمري ما ننساه . أنا واشمُه في قلبي قبل ما كتبته في مذكراتي, he said to me, “I will nev­er for­get what you’ve giv­en me. I smell it in my heart before I write it in my notebook.”

Dear Driss, dear Ahmed, I feel the same. The “let­ters of time” have fall­en into your hands and mine, as we write what we are, trans­lat­ing love and poet­ry through the decades.

 

[1] Wag­n­er, Daniel A 1994. Lit­er­a­cy, Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment: Becom­ing Lit­er­ate in Moroc­co. Cam­bridge: Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press. 

 


 

Guardian of the Soul

Ahmed Lem­syeh

 

Wind, the veins in a glass
a shack­led wave
and a flute in my head
The soul sur­rounds all the senses
it’s a sea where peo­ple hide
a pil­low on which the head rests
clothes, a cane,
a door in the water with­out a guard
a key that opens the stub­born lock
And I crawl, escaping
unde­cid­ed between a body that drips down a glass
And a glass that puls­es with feeling
the soul
orna­ments its walls with obscurity
preg­nant with shad­ows of glass
stabbed with a dag­ger of light
sleepy
the air its veil
its charms spin words
that the secret conceals
a long cry muf­fled like the night
plant­ed in the skin
the eye reads the talk­ing gaze
And the pen begins to stretch
above the heart
cov­er­ing and expanding
I saw the hid­den become vis­i­ble [2]
I fear mad­ness will reappear
If it wakes, where will I put it to sleep?
If it comes back to life, where will I bury it?
If it balks where will I shel­ter it?
If it goes into a trance, where will I calm it?
I saw death cov­er­ing its face
mount­ing a black stallion
It tied its horse to a palm tree
and ants
began to move in my ribs
I became a bee
my breath the sea
my mouth amber
I drink the soul’s guardian
and snack on an ant
knead the body and put it on the bread board
My voice is an oven
Com­pared to it, life is worth an onion
And we, to death, are fat­ed [3] 
We wait for it to turn its back on the qibla
They say life will come back in a piece of wood
plant­ed on the moun­tain top
and the whole world a sea
They say the thread of death is in the reed
that life delivers
Every death renews age
The wind is soap that sings
and the trees mute town criers
Light rays, a crooked finger
the remain­ing words aren’t sleeping
The morn­ing repents
Suf­fer­ing is hot and about to lay its egg [4]
And death is chaste, tak­ing only its due
Time turns around
but life has not had its menses
Those who aban­doned it so desired it
Every­one for­gets death in diversion
And we live day to day
He who denies and wants to live forever
will see his face in the clouds
The axis is not the motor of life [5]
The mill is not the battery
The secret is fear­ing death
It’s the oil that ignites life’s candle.

 

[2] al-ghabir dhahir, “the absent became visible”
[3] al-mut haqq ‘ali-na. Death is our destiny.
[4] Hamiya fi-ha al-bay­da, warm and has to lay an egg ; mak­ing a noise like a chick­en about to lay
[5] in French in the original

Part of a Country Symphony

Driss Amghrar Mesnaoui

 

the crowd drank us before we entered the city
wor­ry we wore it
and we wore the wounds of the swords of deceit

those you need­ed a boat became them­selves a ship
those who gave birth to us
hunger ate them before they could eat

those who raised us
the grave swal­lowed them before they could dig it

We found fast­ing the med­i­cine for hunger
our thirst drank our tears
the tears sprout­ed wings
they flew away
they wandered
far away from myself
and close to the sea
they brought me down
I drank a hand­ful from a wave of chaos
drown­ing like the sun before it sets
in a sea of wars
the bands of for­get­ful­ness swal­lowed me
the heels of the wind threw me in the mill
the days chewed me up
am I a person?
In my chest is an amber eat­en by ashes
on my shoul­der is a tree where crick­ets play
am I a person?
I’m the for­get­ful one…I am the drowned
I’m the inat­ten­tive one…I am the awakened
I put out my neck to help the drowning
hope, my eyes and arms
I extend my hand to sew the patch of star
ris­ing from the bot­tom of the dirty night
I sew my skin to the bones of the flayed day
with sali­va I wash the face of cheat­ed luck
hope, my eyes and arms
I said that it just may be that the buried root will live again
I said it just may be that arms and tongues will sprout from the clay
I dug in my brain, in my veins
I looked in the seas, in my wor­ries, in my blood
for myself
for just a bit of myself
I found Abdelkrim Khatabi ris­ing like a giant
from a vicious cir­cle of cares
he split the ground…he split the seed
and he came down on the notebooks
he opened his hands and said, “here’s the qibla”
with me in me
a new thirst inhab­it­ed me
like the flower’s thirst for a drop of water
my thirst can be quenched only for that red star
I ran behind the dew­drops of night…behind the star
I found Abdelkrim in the spring of water…in the roots of the tree
I found him har­vest­ed yet planted
I found him in the vapors, in the clouds, in the waves
I found him, ink, paper, feath­er, wings, bird

 

Arabic literature in translationDarijaMarrakeshMeknesMoroccan literaturepoetryRabat

Deborah Kapchan is a writer, translator and a professor of Performance Studies at New York University. A Guggenheim fellow, she is the author of Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition (1996), Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Music and Trance in the Global Marketplace (2007), as well as other works on sound, narrative and poetics. She translated and edited a volume entitled Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Moroccan Contemporary Poetry (2020), which was shortlisted for the National Translation Award for Poetry.   

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