PREFACE de: confidence and memories



“In the Zenata tribe, one of the nations in the Maghreb, the poet walks in the front and sings: his song animates solid mountains”[1]

Ibn Khaldun


I was asked by some colleagues few years ago to serve as guest editor for a special issue of the poetry review, To Topos, devoted to North African poetry, entitled “North African Voices”. After reading some of Ahcene Mariche’s poems on his own website, I have asked him to submit one or two poems for that particular issue.  Later, Ahcene sent me a number of his new poems, among which I have selected “Saint Valentine”.


After that publication experience, I had the chance to meet Ahcene and to read more of his poetry. On a number of occasions, I even had the chance to hear him read his own poems on a TV literary show and on audio files that he offered me. I immediately found his poetry powerful, musical, magical and soothing. It is then both my pleasure and duty to write this short preface for this second translation of his poetry.


As I was gathering my thoughts for this preface in a local public library here in the United States, my eyes lay coincidentally on an anthology of world poetry[2] at the bottom shelf of the poetry section. Next to it lays another compilation of world poetry, entitled Poems from many Cultures[3]. I grabbed them and went back to my seat with a small feeling of excitement to see what poems are picked to represent my culture. To my dismay, I was saddened to find out that all the cultures of the world are represented in those two poetry books, except ours. I must say however that this was not new to me. Same unfortunate phenomenon happens to our culture in other fields, such as mythology, history, literature, music and arts, among others.


Several questions run through my mind. Is our poetry not worth this publication? Who is to blame for this? Do the editors at least know that Kabyle poetry exists? In trying to think about this matter, I realized that “others” are not to blame for this situation and that the issue is not with our culture. It is simply our duty to honor our culture and showcase it on the world stage.


One way to accomplish this is by opening more windows to our culture and expose it in other languages. This translation of Ahcene Mariche’s poetry is inscribed in that spirit and takes strident steps on that road that has just begun. So, Ahcene’s merit also lies in his initiative to have his poetry translated into other languages, especially English. Translating Kabyle poetry is not an easy endeavor but a necessary one. In doing so, he and the translator (Dalila Aït Salem) opened a kind of a breezeway for our culture, thus allowing her to evolve and be more visible, and hopefully even better, appreciated. 


The Kabyle language in its poetic expression tends to be dense and short. One word sometimes means an idea or an entire concept. A combination of only a few words often makes a story. One of the poems in this collection, coincidentally called “One Word”, illustrates very well this heavy weight we find in Kabyle words. The poet knows too well the importance and sharpness of words. He says:


A word can be sharper than a knife

Its cutting is so aching

The liver burns

The eye is hurt with tears

All parts of the body are wounded

As if they are pierced by a sword


A word like wine or a drug

Can make you drunk

And sometimes as raging

As a stormy ocean

Your spirit gets restless

And your nights are sleepless


So to follow (or keep) this rhythm is simply a difficult task. One has to be perfectly at ease in the two languages in order to understand the meaning, in the original, and then render it as poetically as possible in the English language. In this case, a dictionary is often not useful at all. Dalila has then taken on this challenge and did a good rendition of the original.


We often hear that a poet is like a child, because a child sees things that others don’t. I feel it is the case in Ahcene’s poetry in general. He often pinpoints to topics and things that are unfortunately overlooked in our society today. Ahcene’s poems are about jealousy, fate, ladies, time, and the present; in sum about life. His poems do not escape reality but remain at the heart of it. The poet, says Heidegger, is the one who is in touch with everything. This “everything” could be a human being, a tree, a dog, a jug, or even a sound. Through his poetry, Mariche is also in touch with Nature. His poems on the wind and on the night are a case in point here.

In conclusion, I hope the readers will enjoy reading these poems in the translation as much as I did.


Nabil Boudraa

March 2008



[1] My own translation.

[2] [2] World Poetry, an anthology of verse from antiquity to our time. By Katharine Washburn and John Major, editors. New York : North and Company, 1998.

[3] [3] Poems from many Cultures. By Fiona Waters. London : Evans Brothers Limited, 2001.

0 Poster un commentaire

Inscrivez-vous au blog

Soyez prévenu par email des prochaines mises à jour