The work of Abubakar Sidi, The Poet of Dust, is a subtle journey across the Mediterranean. This was preempted in his introduction in the work where it juxtaposes the Western Imagery of Odysseus with the Oriental posturing of this epical work.
For me, The Poet of Dust does not conceive itself in the parlance of Odysseus, it simply alludes to its journey motif; it is reflective of the wealth of journey of arid lands from whence almost all civilizations became aware of the ‘other’.
The work also considers poetry as philosophy which uses language and history are mere conduits of the eternal divinity of thoughts. It is in the distillation of these fundamentals that the collection engages Sufism as a pre-text to the questions of existence, of love, of God, and of human co-existence.
This I consider valid having gone through the contributions of Sufist thoughts to the development of Islam across Africa and the fact that Sufism gave ample room for philosophical engagements as against the rigidity that encourages new Jihadist proclivities stemming from sectarian hegemonies.
Not to forget that Sufi scholars, largely undermined by Western hegemony, contributed to our understanding of the earth in the committee of planets; through astrology, they expounded on the concepts of the human body, soul, mind before epistemological thinkers that are praised in the institutes of learning in the modern world.
Is Abubakar a Sufi?
Sufi thinkers also brought a sense of form to poetry even before Adonis, validating the sensory metaphors without undermining the metaphysical imports of repetitive chants, and fostering language into spaces that go against the grain of cliche and numbness.
The collection is divided into Two Parts; The Poet of Sand which explores the personality and the duty of the poetry to society in many dimensions. It concerns itself with the problem of the Utility of the Poet, it also delves on the Question of God and the concept of creation. The Poetic Manifesto explores arguments on the validity and practice of poetry, and ruminations on love.
This review will focus only on the first part of the collection in other to achieve a robust explication of ideas.
In the Poet of Sand, the works pays surrealist tributes to the poets that have shaped his engagement of his craft; Martin Espada, Adonis, Darwish, Simic Billy Collins, Rumi and Ginsberg. In this, the poem envisages a conversation with these laureates of words. In between these mavericks are also subtle attributions to Franz Kafka, Martin Corpenicus, while fostering the modernist troupes of loneliness, oneness, imprisonment, and identity.
The role of poets in the society
From the biblical allusions of Billy Collins to the foregrounded apple in the Garden of Eden in one breath. Abubakar is also conscious of the duty of the poet in society and this is a constant motif even in the second part of the book. Using the ‘Who, Where, How’ concept the poet problematises the public gaze of poets and poetry.
Rumi: I didn’t see him, I only saw something of him
A silhouette, a transparent gel, a shiny crystal
Probably a holy ghost. He gave me a very heavy
Simple thing, a ring of words
Wear this always on your heart, he said
A Poet is nothing but a universal ambassador of love.
As much as the poet persona explores the constant motif of love, he does not travel the way of worship that is wont of Pablo Neruda. Here love is a transfiguration that mounts you on a pedestal for clarity and for questioning. All journeys within love is love itself. For the poet persona, it is love that makes the poet renege against the standards of survival, it is love for words that leads to a deviational process to create newness. This section also places a subliminal gaze on life through the eyes of the poet.
Poets are, indeed, thinkers
In the Pennisula of Poets III, the poetry further dwells on the divinity of the poet, placing the poet in the same pantheon with saviours like “Confucious, Budha, Basho, Judas, Simon, Peter and Lao Tsu’ evokes the satiric spirituality and the double-faced content of the verse. Poets grapple with the colour of life, poets are thinkers in the alliterative patterns and internal combustion of phrases, poets see words as the big bang of evolution.
The Poet is the genitalia of doubt
A half-naked breast of life’
However, in this work, we encounter contradictions that convey imperfection, struggles of self and collective discovery. We engage a mystic; servant to the rulers and a thorn in the flesh in the agenda of revisionists, We have launch with a rebel, a misunderstood outcast. This contradiction is also found in Sufi thought that pushes the frontiers of excellent epiphanies beyond the lines of understanding through the landscapes of post-confusion.
‘A Poet is a mad King, a lunatic, the mentally deranged locked Behind the very
cold, old wrought iron bars of life’.
‘ A Poet is the vagabond Sufi Saint Laikhur
Chanting songs to the stupidity of Kings’
While the poets collects snapshots of life into the emotional vortex of the brain, the poet distills the collective journeys into energies that are beyond the present, the past and the future into quotidian philosophical perspectives.
In the work we encounter historical name-droppings that are germaine to my earlier explication of the poet’s penchant with Sufism. The poet is drawn to the Sufi Poets and Philosphers for their contribution to art, culture, and science as against the rash of present day terrorism.
This collection is a subtle rebellion to the present era of haram where art, history, philosophy is immolated to give room for voids and misguidance.
The name dropping technique of the poet is brilliant and broad, only a few have the vacuity of use, others use it to prove over-intelligence without profound thread of thoughts; they turn name-droppings into bird feces, but poet’s like Niran Okewole and Abubakar Sidi extend their name-droppings by providing other symbols that intercept the age.
The experience and the existence of the name spurs an inquisitive reader to do further research on the persons that embody and personify these concepts. El-Hallaj for example was a Sufi poet who was beheaded for his profound philosophical statement, this statement went against the position of many Islamic scholars and rulers, he was beheaded without considering the episteme of his words, from there the poem traces it to the destruction of Timbuktu.
History of poetry
Other parts of the poem conceive the whole gamut of literacy from post-orality to the discovery of writing.
‘A Poet is a talking book, the only surviving copy
All others have gone extinct’
The poet also contemplates the presence of the reader in relation to the poet. Here it is explicated that the reader is not a distinct other, yet the reader uses the volumes of the poet as meditation. The text becomes a guide to become well exposed to the nuances of the known and the unknown.
In Instructions to a Poet , the poet presents arguments for good poetry, which for the reviewer is one of the major touchstones of the entire collection. Here the poet is weary of old, long entrenched traditions that do not serve as a platform for further exploration but keep poets stuck in clichés modes, overused metaphors that fosters into a dangerous collectivism. The poem elevates the bard for his musical tendencies but is weary of illogicality, and impenetrable displays of metaphors hidden behind lyricism.
Of particular note is the poem’s disdain for the word ‘I’, which it describes as a self-proclamation and an orgasm of self-existence which contests with the all seeing-eye.
Poet. Awaken. Rise
Rise against the Litany of Letters
The Innuendoes of I
The Villainy of V
The Obscenities of O
The Poem challenges the poet to be the vehicles of the muse of truth, the urgency that words are not made fickle but are explored as a delicate chemical matter that shaped the world.
It is this thread of thought that the poem does not criticize bards who entrench great names in the scrolls of their verses, yet they must be weary of impersonating other poets in order to achieve fame. The poem engages human tensions such as love, heartbreaks and hatred, as signatures of the fickle passages of time and the picturesque or calligraphic postures that gives attention to all dimensions of the senses, Poetry is not a historian yet must preserve real stories between the clauses of its form.
What poetry must do
Poetry must break language into newborns for profound usages that elevates the blandness of everyday conversations in leaps of passions for those looking for escape from banality and lunacy.
Having encountered motifs of lunacy in the work, my interested was further notched by Kelvin Kellman’s review of The Poet of Dust. It is important to note that lunacy for the collection traces a tradition of the Dervish monks, who subject themselves in the minimalist lifestyles in order to avoid distractions from exploring the greatness of God.
Abubakar posits that poetry is layered because other poets inspire the continuum of poetry, there work is to discard falsities entrenched within the illusions of social strata. This collection rises above epic boasts and praise singing by creating metaphoric shifts that do not judge but do explore the tensions of love.
The work discontextualises the nuance of pleasure and quietness of being. For the poem, poetry must give vision to blind, foresight that render aesthetics like love making, the kind that penetrates dreams into reality.
The persona of God
Testament of Sand is a poem that pays tribute to God, and this metaphor is extended to the persona of God. Here the poem discovers God as words because of its existence from the beginning. It is words that shape destinies, and help perceive the expression of the unknown and the unknown. It is words that conceal mysteries and serve as the tools for oppression, and freedom.
The declarative that God embodies words and that God is the force that births words are largely headaches for thinkers who do not understand the oneness of both the big bang, the logos of the migration of imagination without which science is collapsed into a cosmic microwave. Where the angels disdain mankind for their liberties, God basks in the limitless capacity to extend the pathways of creation with codes that transcend the body, beyond the dust that man eventually will become.
The bard conceives words as the radiation of scientology, bombs of biblical allusions that splinters into blasphemy, and the Buddha of meditation. This leads to questioning about God, where the poet asks whether God prodded civilization to points of connections and difference within which cultures, myths and traditions acknowledge the source of truth.
This poem is inspired by the Quran and the disputations of Sufi monks who believe that in their search for God in non-conformist ways, they deconstruct the shells that established religions have used to hide God from the people.
The Deuteronomy or Book of Dust explores memory which is archived in the spaces between land and water. In this poem, mankind start and end conversations (death) with the landscape. There is the debris of unachieved desires that God uses to interject the conversation as a reminder of our ephemerality.
My challenge with the collection is that it is an intellectual work and may be at the risk of fossilizing knowledge in a society with a lazy reading culture. This collection is a work birthed from meditation and it must be reached with a method of meditation. Although, its vibrant lyricism helps to navigate bends of thought processes, the reader without depth, may be lost in the labyrinth of arid lands.
Touch of historical fillers
The collection is also filled with historical fillers in a country troubled with the amnesia for history; where people may not value it. This concern has not forced the hand of the poet to displace novelty for notoriety. He may bear the brunt for it.
Femi Morgan is a writer and culture curator, he is the author of the book of poems, Renegade (2019). His poems, reviews and content has been published online and elsewhere.