The Lost Arabs (Omar Sakr, UQP)
Omar Sakr’s second poetry collection is an assured and vibrant exploration of doubt and faith. Following on from his Kenneth Slessor Prize-nominated debut These Wild Houses, this collection explores the connections between Sakr’s identity as an Arab-Australian and the stereotypes foisted upon Arabs in the wider world. Sakr’s poems about his father, the first lost Arab, anchor the collection and lead the poems of lost religion, language and culture. The collection leans into its anger: from the laments for Palestine, and polemic accusations of US drone bombing, it moves to quieter, no less impassioned poems about his mother, grandmother and aunts. The poems have a vivid and insistent sense of place and identity, with Sakr’s bisexuality threading throughout the work, and will speak especially to young Arab readers, while Sakr’s sense of compassion makes this a collection that is welcoming to all. The poems cut deeply, but through Sakr’s ability to thoughtfully probe and confidently proclaim, none of the work alienates. The Lost Arabs will appeal to secondary and tertiary students who are looking for a work that challenges Western ideas of masculine Arab identity and sexuality, both in Australia and abroad.
Sumudu Samarawickrama is a poet and West Writers Group member