Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is one of the leading African poets writing in Arabic today. He has gained a wide audience in his native Sudan for his imaginative approach to poetry and for the delicacy and emotional frankness of his lyrics. His poetry has always been concerned with the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of Sudan and its complex history.
Saddiq was born in 1969 and grew up in Omdurman Khartoum where he lived until forced into exile in 2012. From 2006, he was the cultural editor of Al-Sudani newspaper until he was sacked from his position for political reasons (along with 22 other colleagues) in July 2012 during the uprising against the dictatorship of Omar Al-Bashir. Saddiq only escaped imprisonment because, thanks to the miraculous timing of the Poetry Parnassus festival at London’s Southbank Centre (the world's largest ever gathering of international poets at which Saddiq represented Sudan), he was in Britain when a series of mass arrests took place. He was granted asylum in the UK and is now living in London.
Saddiq's first poetry collection Songs of Solitude was published in 1996 (second edition, 1999). He has also published The Sultan's Labyrinth (1996) and The Far Reaches of the Screen... (1999 & 2000); all three collections were published in one volume as Saddiq's collected poems in Cairo in 2009.
One of the six poets taking part in the Poetry Translation Centre’s first World Poets' Tour 2005 in October 2005, Saddiq received a rapturous response from audiences in the UK. In March 2006 he returned to the UK and gave a moving reading at the Poetry Café as part of their occasional series 'In Town Tonight' featuring important international poets visiting London. In the autumn of 2006, he was invited to take part in the LitUp festival in Kendal, and he also gave readings in Brighton and at SOAS in London. In 2008 he took part in the second World Poets' Tour.
His ‘Poem of the Nile’ was published in The London Review of Books one of the rare occasions the LRB has published poetry translated from Arabic and the first time they featured the work of an African poet. His poems have also been published in Poetry Review and The Times Literary Supplement. This is a real indication of Saddiq's growing status as an important international poet.
Saddiq's involvement with the PTC stimulated his interest in translation. Back in Sudan, he began an innovative project that involved writers in Arabic from northern Sudan collaborating with writers in English from the south to translate each others' work, a project with enormous political significance in divided Sudan and which he later had to abandon because of the serious risks involved. In 2007, he set up the website Sudanese Ink, a showcase for writers from Sudan and beyond.
In 2010 he was invited to take part in the prestigious Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam. He then travelled to the UK for a series of readings alongside Corsino Fortes from Cape Verde. Whilst in London, a party was organised for him at The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology which holds a significant collection of ancient Sudanese artefacts. As a result of the success of this event (and earlier visits to the Petrie in 2005 and 2006), he was able to work in the Petrie Museum as their poet in residence during the summer of 2012. This led to a new book of poems, He Tells Tales of Meroe: Poems for the Petrie Museum (Poetry Translation Centre/Petrie Museum, 2015), which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in 2016. His dual-language edition, A Monkey at the Window: Selected Poems (2016) is the first single author volume in the Bloodaxe Books/Poetry Translation Centre series to follow the multilingual anthology My Voice (2014).
Author photo © Crispin Hughes
Books by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi