Popular Unorthodoxy: Review of Abubakar Sidi’s Poet of Dust | by Kelvin Kellman

umar abubakar sidi's the poet of Dust as Meta-Poetry
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The first thing that strikes you once voyaging between the pages is the peculiar unorthodoxy, in both language and structure, employed to birth the book. Another striking feature is the fascination with old masters, particularly of the Persian and Arab sorts, which perhaps informs the grain of unorthodoxy that the book bears: A poet of this time—as the term “new poet” doesn’t exactly capture the meat in describing Sidi because he’s been on the block—echoing the spirit of old masters in his verse. And within that unorthodoxy is the tendency for the crass and the unhinged. How crass, and unhinged, and unorthodox, can the title of a poem be further than: Poetry in the Republic of Love or A Goddamn Poem about Goddamn things & Similes Vomited by a Motherfucking Goddamn Bard? —a title which quickly brought to my mind Omotara James’ poem title: “GenderMotherFucker”. The truth, or my truth, or the truth as I perceive it, is that: Sidi is a lunatic. And like all poets reaching for peace, order, and other elements of noble aspirations in our collective humanity, Sidi’s lunacy, though poetic, is in both the character of his wordings and his message. How else does one in one breath allude to Arabic (Koranic) piety, and in another, openly embrace the stark exhibition of pornographic imagery?

Page 60 says: “ goddess, as i let go the strap of your bra & let my tongue / examine the dark areola of your nipple, as you moan & / cry: bite me! Bite me hard!

Like most poet, Sidi in a rather quaint swagger of ambition also attempts the unreachable; to define poetry. He also attempts to define who is and what a poet represents, albeit, like everyone before him, futilely. He goes on and on about this:

A poet is nothing but a universal ambassador of love

A poet dreams through wakefulness.

A poet is a craze-man of the stars / A poet is the grand lunatic of hell (tempting one to wonder if this line is confessional)

A poet is a talking book, the only surviving copy / All others have gone extinct.

A poet is he that hears the disturbing / claptrap of dumb demons arguing in his own mind. 


It is not difficult to see why he stopped, having exhausted metaphors to describe the person who embodies the nuanced art of poetry. On the last page of “Deuteronomy or Book of Dust”, the author launches into a voice quite familiar voice when he undertook the task of explaining (defining?) what poetry is, that for a second, I was almost transported into the wonderment of my reading hours of Ben Okri’s prose.

On the downside however, at some point in his ambition, the poet gets carried away with his almost morbid fascination (or eulogizing?) of the Al ar shad in the poem, Testament of Sand, that at some point I was near confused about the person of the character because of the sweeping sketches of its description and being—at one point a poet that inspires Sidi, at another, God himself (31). Further reading unveils Sidi continuing with the very same unrestrained inquisition and exposition of same character. First was AL ar shad, and then within the exposition of Al ar shad was the infernal longing to unravel Jim. And in “Deuteronomy or Book of Dust” we are again confronted with the same self-possessed exposition of this Al ar shad character.

Sidi was magnificent with some takeaways. The best for me being:

DARWISH led me through the absence of presence

Good poetry… is a chick / A voluptuous curvy, sexy chick, with protruding breasts / Heavy backside, an enormous clit / And a never ending quest to go more and more

… Sadness is the most difficult manifestation of love and the / Hardest to bear


The stylistic gain of Sidi’s debut is his ability to draw from different sources (even though with a bias for the Arab and the Persian) and climate of cultures: the Arab, the Persian, Yoruba, and even the Greek. But this strength reveals one crucial limiting reagent—that there was nearly nothing in imagery of Sidi’s local ethnicity. I searched hard for a Hausa, Fulani, or any imagery for that matter that might suggest or point to his ethnicity, and I came up with (nearly) nothing. That notwithstanding, can be overlooked, because of the colossal Arab influence on his part of ethnicity/belonging and consequently identity.

Poet of Dust is refreshingly ambitious. A thorough and habitual reader will no doubt be satisfied because for intent and delivery, i is fulfilled. The lines ring, the wisdom strikes, and the staggering gravitas employed to birth the work cannot be questioned.

Following the success of The Poet of Sand—the author’s critically acclaimed chapbook— Poet of Dust is a handsome debut that establishes Sidi as a household name. This collection, asides its merit in its unorthodox use of language / structure, also reveals the author is crucially well-read (with a wholesome fetish for Adonis), and grounded in his art enough to combat the amoebic form of art that is poetry. One can only be anticipative that his next book will follow in excellence, as this followed The Poet of Sand.

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