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The Poet and the Cause

by Hassan El Ouazzani (Morocco) on May 5th, 2010


I am one of the Moroccan poets from a generation that emerged during the 1990s, a specific period of Moroccan history, generally regarded as a moment of decline: the Marxist Moroccan revolutionaries had been released after long years in prison; among them a number had reintegrated into the new social order and even to change social classes: the left-wing political parties had abandoned the battlefront to prepare themselves for total integration within the political system, hoping to gain access to power. The ideas of the 1970s ­– ideas of change, revolution, engagement and struggle – had been replaced by increased pragmatism, opportunism and individualism.

As a generation, therefore, we found ourselves without political causes, and we created, each in his or her own way, our own little causes: to belong to the world, to trivialise certainties and ‘grand’ political ideas, to celebrate the irregular and to survey the small details of our daily lives.


In 2000, I was invited to the big poetry festival of Medellin (Colombia), and I planned to fly there in via London. The police at Heathrow had other ideas, however: namely that I spend 4 hours in tiny cell waiting until they were sure that I was a poet and not a drug-trafficker. Even today, the Heathrow police still have a photograph they confiscated from me. In it, I am pictured with a group of Moroccan poets, whom they believed were perhaps members of a terrorist gang.


I write about this by way of affirming that our engagement as poets and writers or artists should above all consist of recognising and celebrating the values of difference, and of battling against humiliation of others. This is our new noble cause. At least, that’s what I believe!

Translated from French by Sarah Ream.

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