By Nathaniel Bivan | Published Date Mar 8, 2019 22:44 PM
Bookshelf: Your latest collection of poetry is titled ‘The Poet of Dust’. Why dust?
Umar Sidi: Recently, a dear friend of mine attributed the ‘dust’ in the title to the dusty terrain of Sokoto, my ancestral home. That may be true, but I was not very conscious of that when I wrote the book. You will notice that ‘The Poet of Dust’ is one of the many titles of the meta-character Al-Arshad. In the ‘Testament of Sand’, the persona in the poem, needed to embark on a spiritual cum metaphysical journey through the regions of contemplation, to seek meaning. Like every mystic and traveller, the persona needed a guide. Without a guide, the journey would be arduous and tortuous, the traveller could unknowingly derail from the path and could lose his mystical integrity and balance and even go mad. A guide came in the person of Al-Arshad, a suprasensible being who was present “when God breathed into man/the immortal Breath of God/who created the alphabet and encrypted it with metaphors.” For a lack of better words at portraying his enormous personality, I used the title ‘The Poet’ to describe Al-Arshad. He is “poet of the testaments/poet of mud/poet of many colours.” As you may have noticed, in this sense, the word ‘poet’ is used in an expanded manner, to reflect the omni-dimensional nature of the character Al-Arshad. This comes from the nature of poetry in Arab poetics where thought is poetry and poetry is pure thought. A poet in this context is a thinker, perhaps a lord in the temple of thought. As for ‘dust’, I think it symbolizes the universe, and our inability to comprehend its various dimensions and manifestations. I love to contemplate, I love star gazing, I marvel at the sheer metaphysical beauty of the galaxies and often wonder if we are able to penetrate through the ‘cloud of stellar dust over the galaxies’, perhaps, we may arrive at meaning and purpose. So, ‘dust’ symbolizes the quest for meaning.
Read the rest of the interview HERE