Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Contributor Spotlight on Ladan Osman

by Dan Froid

This week, we want to spotlight someone who is something of a superstar on the Prairie Schooner scene: poet Ladan Osman. This is no surprise: her poetry is candid, passionate, and abounding with striking images. Last year, she won Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. Her winning manuscript, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, will be published this year. Additionally, her chapbook Ordinary Heaven was included in the box-set Seven New Generation African Poets, published last year.

Her poems appear in numerous venues online: read the beautiful “Verse of Hairs” on Vinyl Poetry. Heard Magazine features her poem “Partition,” as well as an interview. You’ve gotta check out “Partition”; as D.M. Aderibigbe writes for Heard, it’s soul-piercing. Osman explains in the interview that communication was her central concern while writing the poem: “I was thinking mostly about how some gestures and actions are hard to translate into English, and are lost altogether when we leave our homes or communities. It’s a bit simple but I can finally start to feel the isolation in those lost acts of communication.” Many of her poems tackle the complexities of communication: between mother and child or old and young, or children among themselves.

Her poem “Section 8” appears in Prairie Schooner’s winter issue:

The afternoon me and Cuckoo find out it’s not the name of our neighborhood, we laugh until we’re drooling and choking on our spit. We roll on the floor until our mom calls us hyenas. Then things are not so funny. The free toys from Salvation Army are embarrassing because we’re Muslim and anyway, Santa never comes to houses that don’t have chimneys and real stockings, even though you left him milk and cookies warmed in the microwave. We were small and stupid. Now I hate the bulk food boxes we used to build Toytown, the garbage bag of Barbies and board games every winter, that I am not Andrew, whose parents come to school to talk about their jobs and give him money to buy 5, 6, 7 books at the book fair every month, that I have to write that my parents are “separated” on the free lunch forms. I want to ruin something for someone.

Check out the rest here.

For more with Ladan Osman, check her out on Twitter. And as always, visit our website to learn more about our latest issue.