Abdallah Zrika – Freedom of Expression through Poetry

Referring to poetry as “the ultimate threshold of words”, Moroccan playwright and poet Abdallah Zrika is renowned in literary circles for the spontaneity in his work which is seen as unparalleled in contemporary Arabic literature. He is popular among the Moroccan youth as they relate to his ideals of freedom of expression through words. Certainly, his words have had an impact, with six of his poems being judged by authorities as morally dangerous, resulting in him spending two years in jail due to censorship issues.

With a degree in sociology, and an intense interest in society and social issues, Zrika uses the language and concepts of everyday life in his works, breaking free of the restraints put upon poetry as being high culture. It has been noted that his themes are metaphysical and existential, dealing with man as one of the organic components of the universe, much the same as insects, plants and birds, rather than being the center of it. Zrika uses language and words to make sense of a complex world. A phrase taken from his poem Black Candles suggests that he may sometimes be overwhelmed by emotions as he writes: “This is not a pen, but a pickaxe to destroy the poet who tyrannizes me”.

Zrika was born and raised in the poorer quarters of Casablanca, and despite economic hardships, he describes his childhood as being happy. He notes that the conditions in the shanty-town stimulated his imagination, and by comparison the actual city of Casablanca appeared bland and lacking in texture. He also reveals that he has always felt a great affinity with nature, and finds inspiration in objects more than in people, referring to a blue velvet notebook cover belonging to his sister as an example.

Abdallah Zrika’s works are written in his home language of Arabic, but some have been translated into French and English. French translations include Rires de l’arbre à palabre, poésie (Laughter of the Palaver Tree, Poetry) in 1982; Bougies noires (Black Candles) in 1998; and Échelles de la métaphysique (Scales of Metaphysics) in 2000. His most recent publication is a collection of poems entitled Ibratou Lwoujoud – The Needle of Being.