By: Umar Siddiqui
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: July 2022
Reviewer: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: August 2, 2022
If you want to appreciate personable poetry, poetry that feels accessible and honest, poetry that wears its heart on its sleeve, then Umar Siddiqui’s Weightless, Woven Words will comfort you. If you are someone who prefers perfect symmetry and sterility, Siddiqui’s collection might make you uncomfortable. But as Mexican poet Cesar A. Cruz says, “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” In the way a wise friend meets you for coffee, Siddigui’s work will meet readers where they’re at and offer companionship.
The collection is divided into several chapters. “Desperation” ends with a sinking ship. “The Human Condition” moves from falling apart to wondrous dreams. “Human Connection and Communication” involves yelling at walls and faking being nice. “Voices/Advocacy” contemplates desire and its authentic root. “Perception” probes destiny and human will. “Subjectivity/Position” examines trust, how and where to place deep faith. Finally, “The Journey” insists the relationship between self and self is a reflection of self and other:
The errand is life
The journey, the strife,
I depend on you but also don’t,
The destination uncharted and so unknown.
Every poem reveals the poet to be sensitive, emotionally inquisitive, and forthright. Not every poem contains crystal clear imagery, but the vagueness serves to make readers think and fill in the details for themselves. Siddiqui’s voice resonates with philosophical longing and reaches for Disney references; the combination charms and cheers as it warns and criticizes. Whatever mood the voice conveys, at least it’s honest:
Sometimes I feel aimless,
Like everything is tainted,
And shoulders to cry on are occupied,
I thought I would feel adequate this time.
This poem, entitled “Fingers Crossed” leaves the reader with the poet’s shattered hopes. The sentiment feels relatable: there’s longing for the beloved to share the lover’s depth of feeling, and yet the beloved seems “blinded by animosities.” That relationship goes south.
He is clear about his passion for spreading love and his support for Black Lives Matter. So, his book might be one that readers include if they plan to rise to this August’s #TheSealeyChallenge during which readers attempt to read one book of poetry per day, especially those books written by authors that are not always in the mainstream limelight. These poems aspire to be musical; the lyricism discerns refrains that repeat. Yes, there is rhyme that feels more spontaneous than forced, the way a childlike mind plays with rhyme, not childish but childlike, a mind that soothes itself by playing while grappling with serious philosophical questions. Other poems feel lofty and contain unconventional syntax that encourage a reader to slow down to follow the poet into a deeper inquiry.
Words may not weigh anything, but the way words arise here, they carry heavy sentiments and disquieting moods. In the poem “Tourists, Enthralled,” the poet asks “Why do you want to be a tourist in this world?” When everything is falling apart, and this everything is not necessarily the physical world but the inner life, the emotional life, a lament that humanity favors shallow being to something more in depth.
Quill says: Poet Umar Siddiqui invites readers into an inner life of emotional turmoil, an energy that gets redirected into an internal journey that delights in knowing the life of the mind and heart; such a journey convinces the reader “I am humming to my rhythm; I won’t get left behind.”