Poetic Justice

Anthology of Contemporary Moroccan Poetry

Translated and Edited by Deborah Kapchan

Poetic Justice is the first anthology of contemporary Moroccan poetry in English. The project started with the discovery of Moroccan poetry in dialect (zajal) and the celebrated poets of the genre, Ahmed Lemsyeh and Driss Mesnaoui. It now encompasses poetry in Fausha (Classical Arabic) as well as French and Tamazight.

In the Press

M. Lynx Qualey in Al-Fanar Media: “Kapchan’s collection brings together a rich and varied tapestry of Morocco’s many poetry traditions, addressing themes as various as desire, political prisons, and spirituality. The introduction begins by quoting the prolific zajal poet Driss Mesnaoui: “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.” 

Read the full review


This book is a superb achievement, the best, most wide-ranging diwan of contemporary Moroccan poetry (in Arabic, French, and Tamazight incarnations) available in excellent English translations. Breathtaking in its sweep from the live traditions of oral poetries to avant-garde inventiveness. And Kapchan’s introductory essay is the most accurate meditation on culture and translation it has been my pleasure to read in decades. A must.” 

Pierre Joris, author of Arabia (Not So) Deserta, and Barzakh (Poems 2000-2012)

“This volume is an outstanding contribution to knowledge, to modern Moroccan poetry and in an extended sense, to modern Arabic poetry; to the societies and cultures within Morocco out of which these poems emerge and which they reflect or challenge; and to contemporary English and particularly the American poetic idiom.”

Michael Sells, Emeritus Barrows Professor of the History and Literature of Islam and
Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago

“Poetic Justice is at once a wide-ranging introduction to Moroccan poetry and an ardent reflection on translation as ethnography, an art which Kapchan performs with characteristic perspicacity and grace. Shifting words and images from Arabic to French and English, she draws on an intimate, longstanding engagement with the complex multi-lingual terrain of the Maghreb to inspire the reader to reflect on what transpires between syllables as well as languages.”

Susan Ossman, UC Riverside, author of Shifting Worlds, Shaping Fieldwhork;

A Memoir of Anthropology and Art

“Contemporary Moroccan poetry is, as Deborah Kapchan teaches, not only heteroglossia but interstitial. It finds resources in the recesses that it overflows, displacing fixed notions of the west and the Arab world, classicism and radical innovation, the secular and the sacred, sound (or gesture or feel) and meaning. It does so in French and Arabic, as well as in a range of calligraphic modes, compromising a poetic field of extraordinary richness, which Poetic Justice shared with incredible grace and gravity.”

Fred Moten, author of All That Beauty!
“With high linguistic skill and remarkable poetic flair, Deborah Kapchan presents us with translations of poems from Arabic, French, darija (a Moroccan hybrid dialect) and Tamazight into English. This is an excellent volume of high value for a diverse audience of anthropologists, literary scholars, or a public interested in the cultures, politics, and poetic creativity of the Maghreb.”

Abdelmajid Hannoum, author of
Living Tangier: Migration, Race, and Illegality in a Moroccan City