A Shero for Social Justice, Poetry, Humanity... Ending Domestic and World Wars, Strife and Chasms
“The more I read on quantum physics, the more I think anything is possible. Also, we encounter enough catastrophes, disaster on a huge scale; it makes sense there would be miracles that counteract destruction myths. I’m open to the notion people can fly although I’ve never seen it.” Ladan Osman
Those words come from a literary talent that continues to emerge and wow international critics, colleagues and audiences alike. She seems both unaware and completely comfortable at once with her growing powers and immense being. If you go to the Poetry Foundation site, you will find a relatively prosaic biography of Ladan Osman. You will note a description which lists her birthplace as Somalia, her undergraduate education at Otterbein College and her master in fine arts from the University of Texas. You will see something about her chapbook Ordinary Heaven and her full length collection The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015). It will tell you that her writing has appeared in Apogee, The Normal School, Prairie Schooner, Transition Magazine, and Waxwing. Bios will also note that she is the Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.
When you Google “Ladan Osman” you will come up with a symphony of conscientious essays, cutting edge poetry and stunning images of an elegant Somali lady colored magnificently in a hijab. What that biography does not note is that Ladan Osman is a mutant whose considerable powers are in full bloom.
“Somalia's poetic tradition differs markedly from Western practice. Somali scholar Said Sheikh Samatar, in an essay to accompany a 1986 exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of African Art, wrote that it is difficult for Westerners to appreciate the role of poetry in Somali culture. "Whereas in the industrialized West, poetry - and especially what is regarded as serious poetry - seems to be increasingly relegated to a marginal place in society," he said, "Somali oral verse is central to Somali life." Tamela Hultman, www.allafrica.com
She relocated from Somalia when she was three. Somalia, in fact, is known as “the nation of poets" with deeply rooted traditions in the ancient art form. Throughout Somalia’s history, there have been huge poetic contests that were central to it’s cultural narrative - like going to the movie theater in 21st Century America. In fact, in Western traditions, poetry is purely aesthetic but in Somalia, it has always been art for a reason, a focus with purpose, language that breaths. Words that heighten and enlighten. The organization of words in such a manner that they organize or shift reality. The living, breathing word.
Poetry is a weapon that we use in both war and peace. When we want to tell somebody something, poetry is the best way to convince them. - Hadraawi, Somali Poet
There are so many boys from other realms/ running in your hallway./ It’s been a while since I heard spirits pacing,/ chasing each other./ No little horses galloping in the sink/ or whinnying in the walls, either./ We are in the habit of discussing nightmares. Ladan Osman, Devotional with Misheard Lyrics
Ladan Osman also believes in and asserts her right to use ritual and ceremony. For example, she knows how to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved and is not afraid to conjure literary lyricism in defense of black lives. It occurs that her command of lyricism or the musicality of thoughts as it relates to thoughts is unusual. Also, noted is her quiet extraordinary juxtaposed with the ordinary. Also, there is the quality of her spoken poetry where a profound humanity emanates from her person, an almost heroic quality of love, grace and curiosity. “ Inshallah and ameen” she will oft times close out texting dialogues on Facebook. Or, she might just type, “Things are always moving to betterment.” There is an unusually high frequency of grace emanating from her person, like pink feathers wafting as blue pelican flamingos fly from the bay for the heavens.
You are my daughter/ I am Beloved/ My face is yours/ I love your face/ my breath is yours/ I am not dead/ I have your smile/ You are mine,/ A hot thing,/ I never died. Toni Morrison, Beloved
“I see now that our specificity, our relentlessness, our tenderness is the real power.”
Her breath sings with cosmic sound. Her tenor is atomic nuclear sonar. Her tongue pronounces the new millennium, the joyous song. She paints with alliteration, phrasing and tonalities sonic masterpieces. She is the plenty spring water cascading out of the dessert, becoming the ocean. Yes, she is the honorable daughter rising strong. She deciphers little mystery simple for her people. She encodes Hope, Joy, Abundance and other principals in language. Now chill - Ladan Osman has mastered the metaphor, lives in allegories and is nice with the verbs and real nice with them adverbs. Plenty, plenty, plenty. She has the ability to turn a noun into an adjective and change the molecular structure of your thoughts with her incantations. Yes, she lives in metaphor and dreams realities - she can change the mere fabric of reality with her being. She is a trillionaire super powered wordsmith - a spellbinder who looks like a runway model. She is a super powered star. Sometimes red. Sometimes yellow. Sometimes blue.
“We can use speech acts to remind us of our vastness, to encourage change, as a salve. These are all super abilities.”
God, that has besprinkled seas and rivers by His will bestowing on each its chosen place on the breadth of this Earth between his mountains’ bulk, He bequeathed to every human an essence to each being – while you’re bewildered where to go, near bereft of boon companions. Begin with back to school with reading books and writing: bumpkin, you can’t just throw us back, we wide-awake believers! Let our Tale Begin with Beauty by Somolian poet Maxamuud Yaasiin “Dheeg”
“A young hijabi stamps my passport when I land at Heathrow. I relax into her questions. We exchange a long gaze as she returns my passport. I sense her scanning my eyes for reason, unreason. I remind myself this is her job. She says nothing, her eyes and mouth a fixed line, and after a beat I leave.” Ladan Osman from Hello from the Outside: Alien Citizen Liner Notes, www.themaandeeq.com
1.) I asked you to think about a few of these questions when we first spoke, so I guess I will ask again for readers- do you believe your powers in writing and poetry are, well, super powers? If so, can you be a little more specific about your powers. Also, what would be your for a super hero “name”? Any ideas on a costume or real world outfit?
I do consider communication miraculous, and any writing ability I have a great fortune. We can use speech acts to remind us of our vastness, to encourage change, as a salve. These are all super abilities. If I were a superhero, my name would be Charm (Charge), a second-generation mutant-human transformed by colliding cosmic rays. My powers would affect electricity and magnetic fields, using them to positively alter resonance. I assume my backstory would be killing time, using language to do something like write bad copy or do petty schemes before I was changed. After acquiring powers, I’d work with existing forces to interrupt evil, soothe the well-meaning. As far as costumes, I’m partial to heroes in catsuits, capes, and masks.
“I often see myself in others. In exercising self-compassion, I hear others better. I take others’ stories more seriously, and think in terms of solidarity, not isolation. I realized only a few seasons ago I have no armor because I don’t need it. I already have everything I need to further evolve and improve.”
2.) If so, do you have other powers and when did you know that you were different? Do you have the power to project your thoughts into others’ psyches? How about telekinesis, where your mind has certain effect over matter? Can you see yourself in others? How do the themes of alienation and community play in your work as you explore your role as a literary talent and global citizen?
I used to long for some of these abilities, thinking they were the only way to keep me or my loved ones safe, the only way to assert myself. I see now that our specificity, our relentlessness, our tenderness is the real power.
“If I never felt alienated, had never suffered from acute loneliness, had never been overlooked or insulted, maybe I’d have a less keen interest in rising together.”
I often see myself in others. In exercising self-compassion, I hear others better. I take others’ stories more seriously, and think in terms of solidarity, not isolation. I realized only a few seasons ago I have no armor because I don’t need it. I already have everything I need to further evolve and improve. I think this is true for all of us, and also think we have a responsibility to serve kindred who are disproportionately challenged and abused. If I never felt alienated, had never suffered from acute loneliness, had never been overlooked or insulted, maybe I’d have a less keen interest in rising together. I work on my own practice but I also dedicate time nearly everyday to support other artists so we can all operate at our highest potential. If I’m given a little space, I have a duty to expand it and invite others into it.
"There my father is the Lion of God/ and not a man who talks about position,/not a man who remembers position.” Ladan Osman, “Words We Lost in the Water”
“When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won’t do to get it, or what he doesn’t believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn’t believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom.” — Malcolm X
“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
3.) You noted that you are a huge Marvel fan. Can you talk a little more about the history behind that - Why Marvel and not D.C.? Also, who is your favorite hero? Favorite super hero team? Why?
Spider-Man is my main jam since childhood. He grappled with a sense of embarrassment about his poverty and meekness. Although super able, he’s worried, touchy, doubtful. Almost all hero myths have this in common but it was easiest to see myself as him. I’d draw him all the time. The X-Men are also an awesome and varied team. I appreciate the civil struggles among The Avengers, that conversation about mercenaries and what it takes to be a just, transcendent hero. Marvel also drew the only Somali hero I know of, Lightbright or Obax Majid. I like DC but don’t feel as connected to figures like Superman or Batman. Those stories read as a bit more cool, and though I appreciate and engage them, I experience less magical realism when I read or watch that work. Marvel helps me write. I return to Marvel as I write about the absurdity of war.
“I’m not sure what that quality is, the person whose eyes jolt you even in photographs, the hands that take photos so you want to touch the artifact, the performer who silences a room before they even do anything.”
4.) If you are a mutant, have you encountered others as yourself? It is interesting that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby drew analogies between the mutant struggle and the struggle for civil rights when the popular series was conceived in the 1970’s. I often think of black folk around the world as mutants with powers that are not identified as such. I mean who can deny the powers and magic of Michael Jackson or Michael Jordan? The legends of Muhammad Ali, Oprah Winfrey or Beyonce? Mild mannered Obama? What about the lyrical skill of Outkast or the Weeknd? Are these not super powered human beings? Viewed through ordinary lenses by ordinary beings?
I don’t appear to be a mutant, and this is probably for the best. I’ve encountered a number of artists with unusual abilities and the dedication to develop their gifts. I’m not sure what that quality is, the person whose eyes jolt you even in photographs, the hands that take photos so you want to touch the artifact, the performer who silences a room before they even do anything. It seems fortune and effort work in concert to bring us standout thinkers and makers. The most powerful of all are people who encourage others into their full powers, whose work makes a reverb even after death. In this moment, I’m considering the powers of Etta James, Neruda, Doris Salcedo, Derrida, Pina Bausch, and Wangari Maathai.
“I am subject to you in the way the water is subject/ to the moon. You are subject to me in the way a wall/ is subject to its roof. And like the water I expect/ you to come upon me of a sudden, like flesh/ out of a slit in cloth.” – from her poem “Water” by Ladan Osman
Tonight is a drunk man, / his dirty shirt./ There is no couple chatting by the recycling bins, / offering to help me unload my plastics./ There is not even the black and white cat/ that balances elegantly on the lip of the dumpster./ There is only the smell of sour breath. Sweat on the collar of my shirt./ A water bottle rolling under a car. / Me in my too-small pajama pants stacking juice jugs on neighbors’ juice jugs./ I look to see if there is someone drinking on their balcony./ I tell myself I will wave. Tonight by Ladan Osman
5.) Coming of age in the 90’s, I was, like most people on the planet, enamored with the legend of Michael Jordan. There was however, a time when he seemed that he literally could fly. He held the world spellbound as he would leap from the free throw line to the basket hoop. His Jumpman persona is literally iconic. Later, I noted the rich image of the Masai tribe in their ebony skinned in their red garments as renowned jumpers. In fact, jumping is a central part of their tradition where the highest jumper get’s the lady. Do you believe that folks can fly? Have they ever flown – this was a central theme in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon?
The more I read on quantum physics, the more I think anything is possible. Also, we encounter enough catastrophes, disaster on a huge scale; it makes sense there would be miracles that counteract destruction myths. I’m open to the notion people can fly although I’ve never seen it. In the context of Song of Solomon’s ending, people fly all the time. Rising is a genetic and learned skill. We have the information we need to grow and practice uplift.
6.) Finally, this interview has been a load of fun to do particularly as I have been a devout Marvel fan for nearly 4 decades on the planet. However, drawing a line to super powered beings seems to be very aprospos for a couple of reasons. #1) As I just noted, I have always secretly believed that people of African descent the world round- who are in some corners renowned for their creative genius- have special abilities and talents. #2) With all this talk of the “Resistance” not only en vogue but a growing trend line along the seismic faults of American and world societies, those powers may well be more needed than ever. What are your thoughts on super powered beings and the current battles of “good v. evil”.
Everything in scientific study suggests vastness, that there are worlds upon worlds. The entire universe moves towards expansion. There’s so much we don’t understand about dimension and time. When we’re aligned with this sense of openness, we cultivate possibility and curiosity. Evil best functions when it kills the desire to learn, to remain vulnerable. In place of potential, evil offers closed story, fatigue, monotony, suspicion, and dread. I don’t believe in oblivion. In our own way, each of us can cast out the dangerous suggestion that there is a bottom and someone has to dwell there, and then disassemble the political and social structures that support this thinking.
“Evil best functions when it kills the desire to learn, to remain vulnerable. In place of potential, evil offers closed story, fatigue, monotony, suspicion, and dread. I don’t believe in oblivion. In our own way, each of us can cast out the dangerous suggestion that there is a bottom and someone has to dwell there, and then disassemble the political and social structures that support this thinking.”
Universe(s) The Now Universe, The Real Universe
Real Name Ladam Osman
Aliases Charm Charge, Afro-Blue, Nabadda, Caddaalad, Blue Star
Identity No dual identity; identity is public
Place of Birth Somalia
First Appearance Huffington Post (Black History Month, February, 2017)
Abilities Poetry, Prose; She paints with alliteration, phrasing and tonalities sonic masterpieces; has mastered the metaphor, lives in allegories and is nice with the verbs and adverbs
Powers can affect electricity and magnetic fields, using them to positively alter resonance
There it is: an interview with the world’s most powerful mutant poet and there will be more. "Charm Charge" she calls herself. But, she might be known as “Nabadda” in her native Somalia. Translated, that would be “Peace”. But more than likely, ”Caddaalad” might be more accurate; the quality of Justice.
She is a conjurer of imagination, a shifter of perceptions. She can make the world exponentially brighter with her thoughts. She can make it darker with her words. She can make it magical with her very being. Sprinkle seasoning on your moods. Her powers have only begun to manifest. She is a power super. She does not know this as I do but she is the most powerful mutant poet on the planet. What do you get if you were cross pollinate Maya Angelou with Iman? She is that hybrid. She is a symbol who has yet to reveal herself. I would say she is the blue star. She is the world’s most powerful mutant. ‘Afro blue’ is the most powerful mutant poet in the galaxy.
As the times increasingly shift away from political power structures that we are comfortable with to those that cause acute discomfort, we would be wise to discover and invest in developing our own super natural abilities. We would be wise to come together and form super teams of individuals who are able to mastermind harmonies of positive faith and profound belief. We would be wise to believe in ourselves; have faith in our brothers and sisters. We would be wise to ‘go high when “they” go low’. And ask yourself these questions in these challenging times:
Can challenge and tribulation be the mechanism by which personal evolution is triggered?
Are political powers that separate really powers? Are we more powerful than those little powers? Are there greater beings in our midst? Don’t heroes always come from the people to meet the challenges of the times?
Didn’t our ancestors come through much worse? 1960’s Civil Rights? 1600’s Transatlantic Slave Trade? Aren’t we the dreams of those ancestors manifested? What are our new dreams for the new power future?
Are there new ways of being? A new epoch in our history that was already begun?
Remember, as Charm Charge noted: “Evil best functions when it kills the desire to learn, to remain vulnerable.”
In the history of mankind, what is the sound that has held you still in the middle of the night, filled your heart with flow, literally connected your soul to hope. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You can call it “Resistance” or even a campaign for Hope and Change but this is the New Age and it has already begun. And there will be many, many more of us coming forth in this age with simple abilities and special powers. It’s evolution.