A Body by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi
As a young Sudanese poet, Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi found poetry to be a potent weapon against a dictatorship. When Saddiq was 20 years old, in 1989, the democratically elected government of Saddiq al-Mahdi was overthrown in a coup by Omar Al-Bashir, who still grips the country in his Islamist fist. Business as usual with a coup, all newspapers and radio and TV stations, other than channels promulgating government propaganda, were closed forthwith. In the face of such a clampdown, Saddiq - who was already well-known in Sudan for his outstanding lyric poetry - decided with some other young poets to stage impromptu, guerrilla-style poetry readings. They went secretly from town to town, often beginning their readings, unannounced, in the streets. Sometimes, they'd attract audiences of three or four thousand people to university lecture halls or sports stadiums, who were desperate to hear their poetry. Needless to say, they were eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for daring to recite poetry on the street.
But Saddiq is not a ‘political' poet. He eschews the term, and he hates it that people in the west are obsessed by the facts I've just mentioned. He is a lyric poet. His poetry gains a political charge simply because he's attempting to write, publish and encourage the production of the kind of poetry that dictators find so troubling. Poetry that moves people, that allows them to feel the kinds of emotions deadened and controlled by totalitarian regimes, poetry that allows them to think and make connections for themselves. Poetry that, as Brecht put it, ‘awaken[s] a memory of situations more worthy of human beings'.