Exploratory Mini-Grants in Action: Poetry Writing Workshops with Daryl Ijaola

March 7, 2024
students writing poetry together

Daryl Ijaola is a sophomore at the W.A. Franke Honors College studying Biomedical Engineering with minors in Health and Human Values and Spanish. He applied for and was awarded with an Exploratory Mini-Grant this spring—these mini-grants are fueled by the Compton Lab for Discovery and Innovation, which was established in the fall through a generous donation from Dr. John L. Compton, and are meant to fund student's passion projects inside or outside of their primary discipline.

Ijaola, who is also a Black Excellence Scholar at the Franke Honors College, has a passion for expressing his thoughts and emotions through poetry and spoken word. Now, using the resources from his mini-grant, Ijaola is cultivating a dedicated space for students to explore writing poetry through weekly workshops hosted in the University of Arizona Main Library.

What has been your favorite course/professor in the W.A. Franke Honors College? 

My favorite course in the W.A. Franke Honors College was definitely HNRS 216 - Living Poetry / the Poet's Life and Work, taught by Professor Claire McLane. This course pushed me to continue to write and love poetry, despite the transition from high school to college. 

Tell us about your poetry workshop. 

My poetry workshop is a safe space to make art with the thoughts that course through our head every day. Every week, we start with two prompts, some chill music, and some snacks. After a little bit of conversation, we take time to just start thinking and writing, getting our mind into thinking about poetry. When I finish writing a poem myself, I read my response to a prompt out loud and then encourage others to present their poetry as well, whether that consists of anyone presenting or me presenting the poetry made by others. Lastly, we spend time reflecting on the poetry process and what to work on, eating and drinking lemonade until it is time to go!

Can you share about your Exploratory mini-grant and how you got the idea to start the workshop? 

The Exploratory Mini-Grant was presented as a way to pursue whatever dream or idea you may have without any reason for doubt or hesitation. I have been passionate about poetry ever since I was young. Being able to express who I am in a way that was a form of art brought me out of a lot of dark places and gave me the self-validation I needed to know that my thoughts and feelings are valid. Being able to try to bring that feeling and mindset to other people is an opportunity and privilege that I wanted to take advantage of. 

When did you start writing poetry/spoken word? How did you become interested in that? 

I started writing poetry in elementary school, writing poems about girls that I had crushes on (that usually did not like me back). Eventually, I started writing about the more serious problems in life I felt I was going through. I loved to be a class clown as a kid, but because of this, I felt as if I would not be taken seriously if I ever expressed my serious concerns. Writing poetry was my space to be taken seriously, regardless of what I thought I would be perceived as or what I may going through. 

As a biomedical engineering student, what has been the impact of exploring interdisciplinary courses (such as poetry, art, etc.)? Why is it important to you? 

Exploring interdisciplinary courses has kept me sane in college. Engineering is known for being a difficult route to go in college, but when it becomes all you do, it can become overbearing, even if it is your passion. By pursuing other courses and projects, I am able to diversify where my identity lies and feel well-rounded in anything I may do whether that is school work or just every day conversations. 

Who or what inspires you in your daily life? 

University inspires me every day. Most of us are here to make something of ourselves or to just find out what out life could even consist of. Waking up every day in college is a struggle in and of itself, but the people I see in the library working day after day, the students I see studying day after day, and even the professors showing up to teach day after day, they all inspire me to keep going. 

What are you hoping other students will gain from writing poetry in your workshop/pursuing creative outlets? 

I hope every student that come my workshops find a place to temporarily relax and find peace in their thoughts with poetry! I hope to encourage people that poetry is not scary, but it can help our mental health more than we may realize. 

What other UArizona or community programs are you involved in? 

I am currently the Vice President of the club, African Americans in Life Sciences at the University of Arizona. I also spend my time playing keyboard for University City Church, hanging in my dorm as a Resident Assistant, and volunteering at Z Mansion. 

What are you interested in doing with your future career? 

I am interested in the healthcare world. I want to be a doctor, but I also want to run my own practice and hospital in the future. When the money stacks up, I hope to start my own insurance company as well, staying true to the values I have to diminish the stress of people who are seeking medical help.

What do you like to do for fun or in your spare time? 

I love to watch One Piece and roller-skate. I do have a “Things to Do” note in my phone that I try to work on checking off each week. Some things on it are going to Dunkin Donuts right before they close for free donuts and learning how to crotchet a beanie.

students writing poetry together

Poetry Writing Workshop

 Every Wednesday from 11:30 - 12:30 PM | University of Arizona Main Library, Room A120

Give yourself the gift of exploring and creating art with your thoughts and emotions. You can spend  just 15 minutes writing or stay for the full hour. Snacks and writing resources provided and no experience is needed! 

Follow @tojuspoetry on IG for updates & more.