The US-based founder of ‘Somalia the Nation of Poets’, Halima Ahmed, conducted the following exclusive interview with the Sudan-based Somali prolific poet and novelist, Mohamed Abdikadir (Stanza), – the author of Haldoor and Single Kiss. Daud, whose bestselling books were published, released and launched in Sudan in 2012, is a published writer and his latest novel, The Beaming Blood, is to be released soon. He is the founder and the current Secretary General of Somali Poets Club in Sudan.
To begin with, Mohamed, welcome to ‘The Nation of Poets. Would you please introduce yourself to our respective readers?
Stanza: Well, first of all, I would like to thank you and "The Nation of Poets" for conducting this interview with me. I am deeply indebted to this creative poetical platform for publishing and promoting the most powerful poetry by the scattered English-speaking Somali contemporary poets who traversed from East, West, North and South of the globe. My name is Mohamed Abdikadir Daud but I am commonly called "Stanza" which is my familiar nickname. I was born in the coastal port-city, Kismaio, in Southern Somalia in August, 1977. I was brought up in the Somali-populated Northeastern Province of Kenya, where, I did my primary and secondary schooling. The first primary school that I went to was Dadaab Boarding Primary School. I graduated from the prestigious University of Juba, then in the Republic of Sudan; but now in the new Republic of South Sudan, therefore, I hold Bachelor Degree (Division One) in Arts and Humanities and I majored in English Language and Literature. I also hold Postgraduate Degree (Division One) in Diplomatic Peace and Development from the auspicious University of Bahri in Khartoum. I am now pursuing another Postgraduate Degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bahri University. In 2012, my first, debut, two books: Haldoor - a collection of my poems in Somali Language, and Single Kiss which is a collection of my poems in English, were released and launched in Khartoum. They were published by the leading Publishing House in Khartoum, Sudan Currency Printing Press, with the approval of the Sudanese Federal Council for Literary and Artistic Works. My latest novel in English is now ready for publication and in the hands of the above said entity for censorship. I hope it will be released soon. In addition to that, I am a United Nations-trained and certified Professional Translator and a Child Rights Activist trained and certified by Child Rights Institute in Khartoum and UNHCR. I worked with almost all the UN Organizations. Currently, I teach English Language, Public Speaking and Creative Writing at an Institute in Khartoum. My poems are part of the course and I enjoy teaching them. I am married to Deeqa Abdillahi Warsame who is based in Britain. I am the founder of Somali Poets Club in Sudan and its current Secretary General. I can say I am very bookish because I started reading novels while I was in standard three and today that I am pursuing my masters, there is no week that I don’t read a new novel. I am an avid reader, isn’t it so?
When did you first start writing poetry and were there any particular incidents in your life that inspired you to write?
Stanza: I started writing poetry in Somali Language at the age of 8. I still remember the first lines that I orally recited. My mother was a poetess and she was famous for “Buraanbur”. She was also an outspoken story-teller and traditionalist. After serving us supper, she used to tell us cultural stories. As siblings, we had to wait for the entertaining narrations of mum every night. Her inspiring mythological narrations solidified my cultural foundation. Under her heart-warming tutelage and linguistic sternness of my father, I crammed over 500 Somali proverbs most of them from my beloved mother. This wonderful mother had a heart of gold. She died in 2000, God rest her soul in paradise. Amen. I mourned for her with heart-boiling elegies. As for English, I began writing poetry in English in 2004 and I was inspired by my gifted lecturer, Dr. Mohamud Ramadan. This academically qualified and socially admirable lecturer taught us “Introduction to English Literature and Expression Writing.” Eye-opening as the courses were, I enjoyed them a lot. Late eighties, when the rebellion of SPM against the then military government of Somalia commenced in the Lower Juba and Middle Juba, it had negative impact on us as family because bloody large-scale military engagements happened there. There were constant offensive and counter offensive between government forces and SPM fighters in the area led by the late warlord, Colonel Bashir Ali Salad (Biliqo). That time, I was in Liboi at the Somali-Kenyan border and the intensity of the civil war affected us in one way or another. My aunt who was raised in Mogadishu, started to record her powerful poems against the government in support of SPM. She was SPM underground cell and as a result of that she was branded as a "persona non grata" by the government which forced her to flee the country. Witnessing all those tormented childhood, I became peace hunter. I was born while Somalia and Ethiopia were warring over the oil-rich Ogaden. I am now living in a foreign country where most of the people don’t understand who I am. So I can say that I am a displaced and disturbed poet. I long for peace beyond limit.
What does "being creative" mean to you?
Stanza: “Being creative” means to me more than metaphoric semantics and syntactical psycholinguistics can describe, because to be creative means to be talented and to be talented means to be gifted. The creative is capable of creating wonderful world of literature with both characterisation of poor and opulent protagonists and antagonists out of the blue and bestows upon them the most colourful attire of a theme to heal the pain of the voiceless in honour of justice and equality. As for me, I share my nocturnal and diurnal emotional intelligence and creative flair to defend the value of humanity at all levels of life. My creative talent makes me to be a poet and an author always in the front line to fight against injustice, marginalisation, corruption, tribalism, nepotism and all the evil acts of man-made stupidity. Through creative authorship, I share my sadness and gladness with both the living and the non-living creatures. I represent myself as well as other fellow humans with the power of my pen positively. I am grateful to the gracious God for giving me this rare creativity with which I share few persons in the world.
What do you try to communicate with your poetry?
Stanza: Well, I communicate with my poetry the pros and cons of life. Because of it I hold the title “Poet” therefore; this creative and abstract insignia enables me to play with poetry. It is a God-given emblem that fascinates me to express my feeling when need takes me to. My younger brother, Shafi, who himself is a poet, calls me “the teacher of romantic poetry” because he understands the creative beauty in my words as he says. All in all, I write poetry about all aspects of life and nature as far as my imagination allows me to. Through lyrics and sorts and kinds of poetry, I talk to myself, to other people and to animals and or insects. When I realise those creatures can’t express their happiness and unhappiness, I represent them and speak on their behalf. Beauty is one thing that forces me to negotiate with poetry while patriotism is a subject that I consider a lot. Aesthetics gives me an assignment of writing poetry at an odd hour of the night.
What do you do when you go into a dry spell of some sort or how do you write another piece when you have been away from it for some time? Do you sit and think through every word of every stanza or do you just write freely and allow the words to flow?
Stanza: I am married to poetry and it makes my wife jealous sometimes … so, due to this I don’t go into dry spell or block as they say. I write poetry in anywhere, at anytime and in any place. It is just a matter of being alone. I can write poetry in a calm place as well as in an excited spot. I recite poetry sometimes in my dream.
Who are some of your favorite poets?
Stanza: The first Somali poet that inspired me was the late prolific poet and historian, Abdullahi Maalim Ahmed (Dhoodaan), who passed away in the historic city, Herar, on 26th of April, 2013 and was buried in Jigjiga on 28th of April, 2013. God rest his soul in eternal paradise. His sudden death kicked me in the teeth. Death is must-meet but his passing away, was a disaster for the Somali classic literature. Dhoodaan was the first Somali poet that I listened to his poems and they influenced me beyond imagination. I think I was ten, the first time that I encountered his poetry. From that time, he became my role model because the central insight of his poetry is very rich and he is famous for quoting Somali proverbs and idioms to give his listeners the easiest way of accessing to his poetical message. Without hyperbole, I can say that he was the poet of the Somali poets. The now aging acclaimed Somali poet and philosopher, Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadrawi) is also my favourite poet. I admire him so much. But I have never ever met those noted poets in the flesh. I really enjoy reading or listening to their creative works. Nazar Alkabani of Syria and Christina Rossetti of Britain are also my favourite.
What advice do you have for aspiring poets? DO you have any word of advice for closet poets?
Stanza: I am personally requesting and telling the upcoming Somali poets and writers to abstain from tribalism, nepotism, regionalism and poetical plagiarism. A poet or a writer is supposed to be above all evils and be a person of the nation. There are a lot of tribal poets who speak for the mild interests of their tribe but history corners them at long last. For goodness sake never be like those. Whoever represents his clan with his God-given talent and harms others, will be deleted from the golden pages of history. Never also allow others to harm your nation with their poetical weapons and humiliate you but warn them positively by following the path of self defense as Islam permits. I am telling my fellow country-mate, Somali poets and writers, to read as many books as they can because reading widens the mind and equips you with wonderful civilisation. Read about your country as well as other nations because we share a lot. Bear in mind that death is waiting for you and your creative words will have both negative and positive - pros and cons, on your deeds depending on how you use them in the numbered days that you are alive in this violated world. Fear of Allah and indulge not in the materialistic world. Support your nation with your poetry for the right purpose and fight against the terrorists that are devastating the elites of Somalia. Never fear of them as your death is in the hands of Allah. A poet has to be brave and bold on account of that this hard time that Somalia is undergoing your words will make meaning if employed for the rights reason. If you fear of terrorists, you are not for the nation. As poets and writers, we shoulder national responsibility therefore; we have to be part in the rebuilding of the lost nation. I am telling you that I received death threat more than three times from the enemies of our nation. One month ago, a unanimous caller who phoned me from a no-number phone said to me, “I promise to behead you wherever I find you!” I replied to him, “Allah already planned the day of my death it is not what you can plan. Your threat won’t silence my pen.” Those elements are threatening me for just my saying stop the killing of the elites that the nation is in need of. If a person is to kill you for telling him not to kill the eyes of the country, then humanity is dying in front of our eyes. All in all, every poet must make history and leave essential legacy for the coming generation.
Anything else you would like to share?
Stanza: Dear sister, Halima Ali Ahmed, I would like to thank you cosily for featuring me and allowing me participate in the programme of (Poet of the Week). I am grateful to your crucial contribution to the progress of our words. Somalia is a nation endowed with acclaimed poets and you are one of them. I am really proud of you. God bless you. Let me also take this timely opportunity to greet the pioneering poets of this blog. I appreciate their talent.