Atolani V. Ladipo or “Lani V," Wittenberg University class of 2019, succeeds in writing the familiar in her recently published poetry book, Black Daze: Poems and Prose.
Though originally from the Windy City, Ladipo currently resides in New York City where she teaches leadership, creative writing, and global issues to middle school youth through Global Kids, a nonprofit organization. As a writer who began sharing her work during middle school, she is now in a position to share her experiences with the next generation.
During her time at Wittenberg, Ladipo was involved with Shades of Pearl, Concerned Black Students (CBS), and Campus Ministries organizations. She also worked at the Writing Center for two years where she shared her knowledge and passion for the writing process with students.
Ladipo began writing poetry just three years ago. Her recently published poetry collection, originally titled Black Days, was written shortly after she moved to New York City and was having a difficult time adjusting to her new life. In her writing, Ladipo found ways to record her feelings and find a home in the city seemingly full of possibilities. She hopes to continue writing with plans for more books to come.
Ladipo recently took time out of her schedule to answer a few questions about her poetry book for Wittenberg.
Wittenberg: What was the inspiration for your book Black Daze: Poems and Prose?
Ladipo: When I started writing Black Daze, it was to purely put words to all the emotions I was feeling from moving to NYC by myself a few months after graduating. As Black Daze grew into a collection of poems about mental health and my experiences in the “real world” as a young Black woman, I started to take an introspective look at my childhood and how I’d been grappling with my identity as a Nigerian-American for as long as I could remember. From then on, an image, ideation, or a line for a poem would just come to me and I would just have to quickly capture it, no matter where I was.
Wittenberg: Who are the biggest influencers for you as a writer?
Ladipo: Many Black female writers: Toni Morrison, Nnedi Okorafor, N. K. Jemisin, Yaa Gyasi, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, and my mom. I was such an avid reader in my youth and honestly didn’t mind that I wasn’t represented in most of the books that I read (I hadn’t fully contextualized race as part of my identity so much as I did with culture when I was young). When I reached college and I started reading the works of these prolific writers that I’ve mentioned and saw myself in the pages, it became painstakingly clear that I’d found a home among these books by and about Black women, and that I’d gone so long without really feeling this way. Even if the stories were harrowing and full of pain and sadness, they were just as much filled with Black girl joy and magic and brilliant beauty and light. Perhaps most importantly, it was familiar. That kind of influence has been pivotal and central to my writing and who I write for and within my mind.
Wittenberg: What is the best writing advice you have been given, and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Ladipo: The best writing advice I’ve received is to keep writing and to keep sharing. Writing evolves with the writer; I can attest to this because my writing looks completely different from when I was 13. To that point, I’ve been sharing my words since I was in middle school and it’s crazy to think that at one point, a story of mine had over 13K reads from strangers all around the world. But I want to acknowledge that it takes great courage to share your work on a public platform online; the beauty of this is that you’ll receive both affirmations and constructive criticism alike that will help you sharpen and refine your craft.
My advice for aspiring writers is to be authentic in your writing; never limit your imagination; never compromise; and keep writing! Write at any moment that inspiration chooses to strike.
Wittenberg: In what ways has Wittenberg led you down your career path?
Ladipo: Being an English major introduced me to works of literature that really changed the trajectory of how I absorbed literature and what kind of literature I thoroughly enjoyed reading AND also learned a lot from. In a sense, I met a lot of witty, mysterious, profound, scary characters through the books I read, characters that have stayed with me because their journeys resonated with me. The English department was like a safe haven, and the professors in that department poured into my success and continue to do so ‘til this day!
Wittenberg: Anything else you would like to add would be great!
Ladipo: Anybody interested in getting a (signed) copy of Black Daze can do so at my website: www.atolanivladipo.com! You can also check out my poetry page on Instagram at @wordsfromthe_moon and reach me directly there.
- By Emily Nolan ’21, University Communications