Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi was born in Sudan in 1969 and grew up in Omdurman-Khartoum where he still lives. In 1986, at the age of 17, he won first prize in a major poetry competition, as a result of which he became the youngest member of the Sudanese Writers’ Union. His first two books, Ghina’ al-‘Uzlah (Songs of Solitude), and Matahat al-Sultan (The Sultan’s Labyrinth), were published simultaneously in 1996, immediately establishing him as a poet of great significance. His third collection, Aqasi Shashat al-Isgha’ (The Limits of the Screen of Listening), appeared in 2000 and a volume of his collected poems was published in 2009.
Saddiq appeared on the Sudanese literary scene at a time of great upheaval. In 1989 the Islamist Omar Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup, unleashing a wave of political and cultural oppression that caused most Sudanese intellectuals to flee the country. That year also marked the premature death of the poet who most influenced Saddiq: Mohammed Abd al-Hayy (1944–1989), whose pioneering poetry was profoundly informed by his studies of the Romantic poets in the UK and his awareness of European modernism as well as by pan-African post-colonialism. Like Abd al-Hayy, Saddiq is alive to the complexities of his position as an African poet writing in Arabic. His desire to articulate those contradictions leads him to write poems full of multifaceted metaphors that fuse complex imagery with allusions to Sudanese history. As Sabry Hafez writes, in Saddiq’s poems “the harsh climate and ruthless everyday reality of Sudan, with its cruel poverty and closed horizons, is balanced by and juxtaposed with its rich spirituality and fecund tradition of fantastic and mythical literature, which almost has a concrete presence in daily life”. Saddiq’s dazzling, tender poems ache with longing for all that has been lost, and yet the piercing beauty of their imagery gives rise to hope, and to wonder.
Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi was a guest at the 41st Poetry International Festival. This text was written for that occasion.
Ghina’ al-‘Uzlah (Songs of Solitude), 1996
Matahat al-Sultan (The Sultan’s Labyrinth), 1996
Aqasi Shashat al-Isgha’ (The Limits of the Screen of Listening), 2000
Poems (translated by Sarah Maguire and Sabry Hafez), Enitharmon Press, London, 2008
Akassi, Akassi Chachatou Al’isghaa Matahatou Assoultan Ghinaou al-Ghazal (Collected poems), Cairo, 2009
Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi’s poems translated on the Poetry Translation Centre website
Download podcasts of poems by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi here