History:

The Asefru, plural being Isefra (as in “I wrote an Asefru, but my friend Bill showed me up and wrote two Isefra”), is, according to common western understanding, a poetry form of the Berber people, or i-Mazigh-en(singular: a-Mazigh) of Kabylia, a Berberophone area of Algeria. However, this understanding is to be taken with a grain of salt, because the definition seems to be a product of historically typical western codification of language and culture they don’t completely understand, because Asefru simply means ‘poetry’ in Tamazight. So, if you do speak Tamazight, and know the actual and proper and perhaps more appropriate name for this poetic tradition and form from the Berber/Kabylia culture, please let us know.

That said. Isefra simply references the traditional oral poetry from ancient Berber culture. Modern knowlege of poetry in Amazigh dates back to 6th century poetry preserved by Ibadhi scholars. These poems were typically performed by traveling poets called Imaddahen. The Isefra tradition is tightly linked, at least in western culture, to Si Mohand ou-Mhand n At Hmadouch, referred by colonials -er-sorry, by French scholars as the “Kabyle Verlaine”, and who, according to history, frequently took his Isefra and engaged in epic poetry duels, such as with the pious Cheikh Mohand ou-Lhocine.

However, this exact form, which has the structure below, whose name historical codifiers of poetic forms cleverly called ‘poem’ in Tamazight but which likely has an actual name in Berber culture (or maybe not, no judging here), is thought to be a newer form, perhaps traced back to the 19th century and perhaps to Si Mohand’s works which were translated by fellow Algerians Mouloud Feraoun, Mouloud Mammeri and Si Amar U Said Boulifa. Research is still being done by the stubborn, deep digging team here at Poetics Online.

Structure:

  • three stanza
  • each stanza has three lines
  • rhyme scheme is AAB AAB AAB
  • length the lines is typically 7 + 5 + 7 syllables

Sources:

https://www.academia.edu/1818422/Ancient_Amazigh_Poems_Nefusa_mountain_
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Algerian_literature
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Si_Mohand
https://dspace.flinders.edu.au/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2328/35635/Amazigh_Poetry.pdf?sequence=1
‘https://yeahwrite.me/writing-help-asefru/’