National Poetry Month Celebration
Amina Iro is a young Nigerian-American, Muslim poet with deep roots in her faith and culture. She is currently a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, MD. A member of Split This Rock’s DC Youth Poetry Slam Team, Amina helped us win 2nd place out of 50 teams at Brave New Voices last summer. She has performed at several prestigious venues including the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, the Washington Convention Center, the historic Nuyorican cafe in New York, New York, the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, the Overture Center in Madison Wisconsin, and various colleges and universities across the country. She is currently a youth coach for the 2014 team. Amina is a seven-time award winner in the local and international levels of MIST: the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (in knowledge tests, singing, and prose) and an aspiring neurochemist with a full tuition scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s First Wave program. She has a chapbook, Things I Miss About Home (2013) now available of purchase.
Where do you draw your inspiration from to write poetry?
As I have gotten older and evolved as a poet and a person, my sources of inspiration have changed. When I was younger, I used to search for bigger events to write about – things I was interested in and felt needed to be shared. Now, I draw inspiration from the little things – something that happened during my day, something I overheard on the train, something I saw on the street. These small occurrences, I think, allow for more room for creativity and more honesty. I’m able to fill in the blanks and write more into existence.
What advice do you have for someone that is threatened by poetry?
My advice would be this: The first person you are writing for is you. Often, people feel that they need validation from “good poets” before they feel good enough to self-identify as a poet themselves. This, however, leads to you writing for others rather than yourself. You have to build up a level of trust and honesty with yourself, and you can take as long or as little time as you want with this. Start small. Start a journal in which you jot down ideas or a few lines about your day. Not every poem has to be shared out loud or to an audience. Lastly, poetry, especially spoken word, is not here for anyone’s comfort (That’s not to say that it’s here only to create discomfort though). I think, when you get to that point of honesty, you’ll understand exactly what that means. You are the writer. Embrace that.
What is an interesting fact about you?
I’m trilingual: I speak English, Hausa, and I’m proficient in Spanish. I also read and write in Arabic. I am also the original hijab flipper, and I have a certificate that says so!
Where are you from/Where do you live?
Originally, I am from Nigeria. I am first generation American-born, meaning that I am a part of the first generation in my family was born in the States.
Who is your favorite poet?
I currently have two favorites: Jamila Woods and Gayle Danley. Jamila has a grasp on language and concept that never fails to astound me. I attended a workshop that she led, and the prompts that she gave were challenging, which I appreciated. When someone does that – makes you expand yourself for your writing – I can’t help but feel as though I have a lot to learn for that person. On the flip side, there’s Gayle Danley. My coaches often stress using “plain language,” that is, not always embellishing your words with extravagant metaphor. Sometimes, it’s more effective to just say what you have to say. Mrs. Danley is a master at this. Within three minutes of her walking into the room, she had moved each and every one of us to tears with a simple poem. She really knows herself, and knows exactly what she wants to say. She’s not afraid to say it either. Mrs. Danley is one of the biggest people I know. She conquers not only the stage, but the entire room with words that everyone and anyone can understand.
My chapbook is currently on sale! It’s only $10, and will be available online in an upcoming blog, which will feature all of the details. For now, people can contact Split This Rock, or any Coach of the DC Youth Slam Team to place an order.