Ahmed Barakat was born in 1960 in Casablanca where he grew up, studied, and worked. He was a journalist for the Moroccan newspaper Bayane Al Yawm. His death in 1994 at the age of 34, in the prime of his poetic career, felt like a personal shock to most Moroccan poets. Barakat was a champion of the prose poem in Morocco, and is believed to be the writer of the first Moroccan manifesto defending and celebrating the Moroccan prose poem.
This manifesto, titled “We Are Diggers of Wells, or the Unsigned Manifesto”, was written on the night of March 18th, 1993, in Maamoura during the 5th poetry festival of Salé. Groundbreaking, it has subsequently become known as the Salé prose poem manifesto.
The poetry of Ahmed Barakat, like that of Jalal El Hakmaoui and Abdel-ilah Salhi, reflects the urban cosmopolitan experience, to the extent that one can say his poetry is one long interrupted eulogy to the city of Casablanca. He is also the first prose poem writer to succeed in transmitting the newness of the prose poem experience a wider poetry audience. Indeed, his early poem ‘abadan lan ussai’da azzilzal’ (‘Never will I sustain the schism’), first published in the Arab London magazine Annakid was the spark that kindled the flame of the prose poem for many Moroccan readers of poetry afterwards.
If, as American poet Charles Bukowsky said, “Genius is the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way”, we can undoubtedly say that Barakat was a poet of genius, since one cannot miss the profundity of each of his poems no matter how simple or short it is.
A Small Word
The Torn Flag
Abadan lan Ussai’da Azzilzal. Manshourat Ittihah Kuttab al Maghreb, Rabat 1991.
Dafatir al Khusran. Manshourat Ittihah Kuttab al Maghreb, Rabat 1994.