Atiba Damali is a writer, spoken word performer, and poet from Long Island, New York. She is the daughter of Jamaican and Trinidadian immigrants. Atiba has been writing short stories and books since she was in elementary school, though back then she hated poetry. That’s kind of funny because now poetry is one of her favorite genres.
Tell us a bit about who you are, where you come from, and what inspires you.
I’m the daughter of Jamaican and Trini immigrants, which is a large part of who I am. Both of my grandmothers came from their respective islands, worked hard, and brought every one of their children to the United States. That takes a tremendous amount of strength and resilience, which is why it’s so important to me to work hard at the things I love. I’m from a town in Long Island, NY. And what inspires me? Mostly life. The experiences, the music, the people, the fluidity of it all is amazing to me. I’m big on the lessons that life teaches you and growing from those lessons to become a better person.
What does your writing process look like?
A lot of times when I write, I’m writing off emotion. I’m taking how I feel about a certain situation and spilling it onto paper. So, a lot of my poems are written on the fly, in the moment I’m feeling something that I need to get out. It could be just a sentiment or words that I want to say to someone (but can’t or won’t). When the words come to me, I usually jot them down on paper, in the Notes section on my phone, or on a Google Doc. Then if I like the way the poem came out I’ll leave it alone, or make edits.
What made you decide to publish your book and what did you find most trying about the process?
Well, I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. I used to write and illustrate my own picture books and then grew into writing short stories, chapter books and poems that I’d pass around to my friends in high school. It was always in the back of my mind that I eventually wanted to be a published author. When I learned about the self-publishing process and how it was especially effective for poets, I decided that it was worth a try to finally get my work out to a larger audience. The hardest part of the process is formatting the book. There are a lot of factors that go into the process of formatting a book for Kindle and print, especially for print books. I ordered a lot of proofs (a sample copy of the printed version of the book) to make sure the book was exactly how I wanted it to be.
Which piece are you most proud of and what inspired it?
Wow, that’s hard to decide because I have so many! But one that means a lot to me is the one on page 32 of the print book. It’s about wishing the answers to all your questions about what you should do in your life could just be gifted to you in a book, but realizing that you’re going to have to figure it out on your own and being ok with it. I wrote it during a period when I was going through a lot, and kept asking people for advice that just wasn’t enough for me. Eventually I realized that you can ask for advice until your face turns blue, but you are the only person who is going to have to figure out what the right decisions are for your life.
Any advice for aspiring writers/poets?
I’d tell anyone who is an aspiring writer/poet to seek out spaces where they can be around like minded people who are also interested in their same passion for words. I think that spaces like these help us to grow and strengthen our skills. Additionally, if you like to write, just do it. Own it. I don’t think there’s a wrong or right way to do it, because everyone has their own style and voice. Just because one person doesn’t like your work, that doesn’t mean that your work isn’t valid. There are billions of people on this Earth, you can always carve out your own audience.
How do you think that your work relates to our readers?
My work touches upon various topics that I think many black women face, especially in their young adult years when they are just trying to figure it all out. We struggle with our self-esteem, our identity, relationships, and sometimes our mental health. At times, you can feel like you are the only person in the world that has gone through something, but reading another person’s work lets you know that we share these experiences. I think it gives you the ability to realize that if someone else made it through, you can too.
Where can the people find you?
You can find me somewhere whining to soca with a rum punch in my hand! Or just catch me on Instagram @atibadamali or Twitter @tiba_dee. My book is also available on Amazon here