April 23, 2019 Artist to Watch: Gianina Ndiaye

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Gianina Ndiaye

2019 Louisiana Poetry Out Loud winner!

Poetry Out Loud is a national, high school poetry recitation competition developed by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. This week we took some time to talk with Gianina about her background and influences, and what got her started on her poetry journey in our Artist to Watch blog.

Have you always been interested in poetry, literature, and writing?

I have not always been into writing and poetry, but I have always been into literature. I am always reading something. My freshman year English teacher, Mrs. Youngblood, is the person who got me more into poetry. She took the time to make sure that her students were seeing literature from more than one perspective. This way everyone could find what they liked in poetry. At the end of the year, we all wrote a poetry portfolio and read some pieces to the class. Through this experience, I had the privilege of seeing the value of these perspectives first hand as everyone had something to say and said it with their own spin on it. It was amazing. I'll forever thank her because otherwise I would not be the Louisiana champion for Poetry Out Loud and more importantly, I would not have recognized the mysterious world of poetry.

Who was the writer that first inspired you?

My obvious answer would be J. K. Rowling. Her series Harry Potter will forever be a large part of my childhood memories. She was the first to show me how a writer can tell a story in which one can lose themselves within it. She did not inspire me to write, but inspired me to dig more into literature. I became an analyzer; and as I read more and more I learned more about the world of literature.

Who are your influences now?

My influences now are many. Most recently, Mrs. Youngblood recommended Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Mrs. Youngblood had given me her TED talk "We Should All Be Feminist" condensed into a short book form. I immediately wanted to know more about the writer. I read Purple Hibiscus and Americanah and fell in love with Adichie's writing style, her message, and how real her novels are. There is so much uniqueness in her novels, and she dissects typical views of Americans & Nigerians. She certainly presents topics that typical Americans would not know about in a way that is real and emotional.  She simply tells it how it is and that's what I like most about her.

What do you have coming up that you're excited about?

I am super excited to be going to DC for the National Finals for Poetry Out Loud. Not only do I have the honor of competing, but I also get to meet other people excited about poetry. I hope to make some friends at the event. Also, I am excited to see the honorary poetry guests. I have also been even more encouraged to write more poetry and I hope to be attending more slam spots in NOLA.

Do you have work published that folks can find online?

I do not have published work, but I am working on another poetry portfolio. 

You can find out more about the Poetry Out Loud Competition HERE.