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Its central sequence plunges the reader into the heat and dust of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. For Amaan Hyder, the religious experience is a human one. These extraordinary, vivid prose poems capture the dreamlike journeys of unnamed pilgrims – from a woman lost in the crowd to an old man seeking refuge in the desert.
Moving across forms and continents, At Hajj grapples with the weight of tradition. What must we inherit and what do we reject? Can a figure stand in two places at once? In poems of intense memory, Hyder charts a search for belonging through the everyday pleasures of food, family and friendship. A dragonfly. A midnight feast. An ill-fitting coat. Composed in a disarming lyric that almost seems to fragment at the touch, At Hajj introduces a distinctive, compassionate new voice in British poetry.
Some poetry has a sophisticated urgency that it comes across like news; news of the real excited world and news of how we arrange the past into a shaping future. I love Amaan Hyder’s debut collection for its insights into East-West lives, into how families deal with their heritage, how violence is a militating force and how poetry is its own sweet fruit of peace. Hyder’s poetry is fleet of foot, restless in its inquiry through form and memorable for its subtle music.
Hyder’s sure art seeks out surprising clashes of image and language to evoke a world of migrant families and generational conflict … It’s a subtly musical debut.
Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times
Amaan Hyder’s At Hajj is a deeply involving, quietly moving and admirable collection… His work can make a simple, shop-soiled phrase as sharp as a physical shock. This is a poetry of survival.
Alison Brackenbury, Poetry London
At Hajj is an original and personal meditation on the interplay between religion, family and tradition … Hyder’s ability to transport the reader with a unique imagination and subtlety of detail is juxtaposed with comical assertions.
Poetry Book Society
Hyder’s ability to convey meaning tonally and atmospherically is truly remarkable… At Hajj is intelligent, kind and resolute in its politics, curious, precise and inventive in its aesthetics. It’s a book worth spending time over, worth keeping in mind.
These are poems which will work on the reader long after they’ve read them, they are both troubling and uplifting in the sense that they offer us a message of empathy and solidarity that is more necessary than ever right now.
Richie McCaffery, The Poetry School
At Hajj is a window onto the dynamic landscape of the pilgrimage, its multiple voices and refusal to oversimplify at once a triumph of drawing the reader in, and acknowledging the inevitable boundary at the window ledge. These are poems of intense perception and emotion in which the recurrent feeling of disorientation – at times the reader’s, the poet’s, the characters’, or all three – echoes and explores the interstitial spaces between East and West and the challenges of navigating a multicultural identity.
Jack Caithness, Stride
Cover design by George Simkin
Published 1 June 2017
A subtly musical debut
The Sunday Times
Amaan Hyder was born in 1982. He is a graduate in English of University College London, and of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. His poetry has appeared in various journals, including Poetry Review, POEM and Blackbox Manifold. At Hajj is his first collection.