Omar Sakr’s The Lost Arabs was one of my most anticipated new releases for the year. It has more than lived up to expectations, which isn’t always the case. It’s intimate, vibrant, beautifully composed and engages creatively and powerfully with a whole host of concerns and themes intrinsic to understanding the modern world.
The Lost Arabs is Sakr’s second collection of poetry; his first These Wild Houses, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Award and the Kenneth Slessor Prize. His poetry has been published in English, Arabic and Spanish, and appeared in a host of journals and anthologies. More recently, The Lost Arabs has been picked up by Rupi Kaur’s US publisher, which is great news and should only see Sakr’s audience broaden.
This collection, like much of Sakr’s work, explores ideas of identity, family and society. Across the collection and his wider body of work, Sakr delves into what it means to be a queer Arab-Australian in a world and country that is often less than kind to those of a similar background. The Lost Arabs, like Sakr, and indeed all of us, contains multitudes. There are moments of anger, of sadness, that rest alongside moments of beauty, compassion and empathy. It is political, but also at times intensely personal.
Throughout the collection there are moments, phrases and passages, that just demand the reader stop, pause, and sit with it a just a little while longer. Whilst it has been a couple of years since I’ve read Sakr’s debut collection, so I can’t say for certain, there appears to be greater sense of experimentation at work here, at least in terms of the design and the way the poems are presented. But, certainly, the poems contained suggest a poet confident and in full command of the language he deploys. Thoughtful, powerful and all too timely The Lost Arabs is well worth your attention and a place on your shelves.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Omar Sakr’s The Lost Arabs is available now through University of Queensland Press (UQP)