2.15.18, 9.27.19

“hey y’all!

like ____ just said, my name is Iyaniwura Olarewaju, and I’m a senior at Cornell University

literally everything I study and do research on is science-y, but I’ve been writing since 2011. I don’t have a lot of poems from back then because when I started out I would burn everything

I was a very emotional pre-teen, and nothing made sense in my head so I would put my thoughts on paper, and then I would burn them

it was a great form of release back then, but I just got this iPad so I don’t think my dad would be very happy with me if I set it on fire




even with all my flame-filled years of experience, I didn’t start sharing my poetry til 2017. that’s when I started my blog, Vessel in the Valley, and that’s the first time I got on stage with my writing

it was really weird

I was sitting in a chair, because I knew I was gonna get shaky

fun fact, it’s really hard to stand in heels for more than 3 minutes when you don’t go to the gym, but I digress


I didn’t usually have a name for my poems back then, and this one doesn’t have a name either

I just want to talk about Esther


full transparency, I don’t do Spoken Word, I just Speak the Word

I have the rhythm and the flow, my voice just doesn’t go boom like the Button Poets do

and it doesn’t need to

when the time comes, I can speak soft and smooth with a voice that feels like honey, I could sing melodies if I wanted to

I does that, among other things

but a few months ago, I got asked if I’d be free to perform some poetry on a Friday night, and now it’s 2:23 on a Friday morning and I’m finally getting ready


I really like the theme for tonight, songs of freedom

songs can bring freedom. I feel the release sometimes, when I remember to let go

words can bring freedom too, when you remember to use them

I’m finally getting ready to talk about the time when I couldn’t


there’s a lot of time, almost a year’s worth, that I just don’t have

it was taken from me

nothing made sense in my head but I didn’t have any paper left to put my thoughts on, they were all covered with notes for my chem final, I had a chem final soon

I couldn’t get my thoughts straight so I didn’t say anything

didn’t say no, didn’t say yes

didn’t say much of anything

nothing was making sense, so I waited to see if it would


it didn’t


and then a few months later, things were making even less sense in my head, so I said even less since I was already lost

I had already lost

my freedom

and my voice had gone with it

so I didn’t say much of anything, for a few months I just ran because I felt so scared, so confused, but when I finally recognized what I was running from, it’s like I gave up


I have very few memories from 2018, because it was just me in the Valley

looking back, I know God was there too, but I had completely given up on myself

it felt like he had taken me with him, since I hadn’t told him not to

it felt like it was my fault, so I locked myself in shame, in pain

it took so. long. for me to find any semblance of freedom


when I talk about the Valley, I am talking about Psalm 23

that was half of the inspiration for the name of my blog, Vessel in the Valley

“even when I’m feeling low, He fills me up”

that’s what it says in the search bar as you scroll through the site

the other half came from 2 Timothy, where it talks about the Vessels that are used for His honor

I made a commitment to stick with Him even when we went through the depths, but I didn’t realize how deep my seas would get

even now, I know they can get deeper

but at least now, I know that if He’s never left me, He never will

I wouldn’t have made it here on my own, I didn’t even want to

I’d really given up


since I’ve lost my freedom, since I was able to find Him in my prison, I have to ask if He brought me here for such a time as this

every day, everywhere I go, I ask “is this what You brought me here for? is this what You brought me through for? is it time?”

I’ve lost my voice, but I have it now, and I’m learning how to use it again

in the learning, I’m speaking, I’m singing my songs of freedom, I’m saying no, I’m saying yes

I’m using melodies and rhythms and flows and whatever I can to speak, to be my own witness, to bring myself justice

I cannot stay silent, because I know it’s only death that follows

I know that my voice can bring deliverance, my voice will bring deliverance

He’s given me a second chance

He’s helping me talk about the time that I couldn’t


*some silence*


sooo yeah, that was just the tip of the iceberg, but I really pray that everyone heard the Word they needed to hear. whether you’re asking Him to use you as His Vessel, or you’ve found yourself, lost in the Valley, or you feel like Esther, looking for a Mordecai to remind you that God really may have brought you here for a time just like this, I pray you got that. thanks y’all



‘Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” ‘

Esther 4:13-14


i fear what i want

i dream big so i fear what i want and i fear what i need to get what i want because i don’t know what i need and i told myself to never settle but i keep ending up among stars when i should be on Mars, and they blind me, bind me

i fear what i want because i know i can have it it’s so close i could grab it but i hate asking for help i hate feeling helpless, and you’re present but your presence always helps less than you mean it to, and i couldn’t blame you

you don’t fear what i want

you could hold my Mars in the palm of your hand

to you, my Mars will always be a grain of sand




i fear what i want

i dream big so i fear what i want and i fear what i need to get what i want because i know what i need and i told myself to never settle but i keep ending up among stars when i should be on Mars, and they blind me, bind me

i fear what i want because i know i can have it it’s so close i could grab it but i hate asking for help i hate feeling helpless, but You’re present and Your presence makes me feel blessed like you mean it to, for that i thank You

You don’t fear what i want

You hold my Mars in the palm of Your hand

to You, my Mars will always be a grain of sand




I thought I could rewrite this, but I don’t fear as much anymore

I know what I want and I know I can have it, sometimes I spend a bit too long in the locker roo m ut I still go for it

I can see the stars before I get to Mars and yet I take them all in, enjoying the view, as I should

I know I’ll end up somewhere

I know what I want and I know I can have it, it’s so close I could grab it, I hate asking for help and I hate feeling helpless, but I do it anyway, because You’re present and Your presence makes me feel blessed like you mean it to, for that I thank You

You don’t fear what I want

You hold my Mars in the palm of Your hand

to You, my Mars will always be a grain of sand

and the palm of Your hand will always be a safe place to land



wait til the end for the title

I like knowing you’re here

somewhere in the twists and turns beneath the high ceilings between the dividers, there’s you

doing what I do

enjoying the beauty of absence

but you’re still here, and I like that

I like knowing that I don’t have to know anything

knowing I can figure it out as I go along, like a mainstream song, the melody will catch on fast and the imprint will last and I’ll hum it as I walk through the prints and the charcoal sketches and the paint covered canvases, how full this absence is


1.25.17, a date with God

I want to be

I want to be like me when I grow up


The me the people know of

The me the people show love


I want to be the me I created

back when I was just a kid and 

nothing I did could compare to 

what I would do because 


when I was a kid

I wanted to be an astronaut

I wanted to fly through the stars

be the first girl on Mars

an astronaut


but now

I just want to be me

I just want to be happy

I just want to be free



366 days

by God’s grace, I’ll have 366 more days

1 more year to try again


cuz let’s be honest, 2019 was not what I expected

I probably wasn’t expecting anything, not after my 2018

wasn’t expecting anything besides a break

hint: I didn’t get one


or maybe I didn’t give it to myself


with all the journals and therapy appointments and prayer sessions, it’s become very clear that I can be so hard on myself

won’t let myself have nice things

won’t let myself mess up

but seeing as that’s not working, I want to spend the next 366 just trying



this time I want to give myself the break

this time I want to rest


because there’s so much I want to do! so much I CAN do!

I’ve seen just a taste of what I’m capable of and I’ve seen myself run from it because I couldn’t see the practical over the potential


or maybe I didn’t want to


maybe it was easier to run to the next best thing, to flex my Better Than Mediocrity and accomplish something that felt worthy of praise, of acceptance

but after the first few successes, maybe even just the first one, you realize you have to keep trying



and that’s where I run

“can’t mess up what you’re not doing in the first place”


(that was my headspace for a lot of this year, just being honest. transparent. vulnerable. ew.)


but anyway, potential is very enticing

if nothing else, I’ve learned that there’s nothing I can’t do. that’s not a humble flex, it’s not even a flex. it’s just reality. there’s nothing I can’t do.


but can I do this by myself? no


it’s all through Christ, apparently


it’s become apparent, see, I’ve had to reconcile how little of this is up to me

it’s a light yoke that I was given, and the strength I needed to hold it was given to me too


sooo why?

that’s my question, why?


like the Prodigal Son, I want to come back home and give my Father a piece of my mind like Jacob did, until He changes my mind, convinces me I have a new name

a new identity

there’s still come convincing to be done, I’m just tired of pretending I’ve made it

I may not get the answer to my why, not one I understand, but I’m taking the peace that surpasses that

I don’t do New Years Resolutions, I do Right Now Resolutions, and I guess right now I’m saying that I want my peace


I’m tired of putting it to the side until I’ve proven that I’ve improved enough

Jacob was running from His mistakes

the Prodigal Son had nothing left to mess up

yet they were both received with open arms

was it the same kind of embrace? no

but they knew Who held them

they knew they could rest

they’d found peace


even if I have to go through another Valley, even if I have to wrestle through the night, I need to know I can rest, peacefully

no matter where I am, my Shepherd is with me

all 366 days He gives me, He’ll be with me

He was in every fire, every flood

He saw every tear

doubt can say what it will, but this I still know

because I’m still here

still holding on to the hope I have left, the hope that’s never left




Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you.

Philippians 4:9 AMPC

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].

Philippians 4:13

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:30

‘So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.’

Luke 15:11-32

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Genesis 32

‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ‘

Philippians 4:7

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. ‘

Psalms 23:4

‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. ‘

Psalms 23:1-3

‘I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. ‘

John 10:14-16

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.

Isaiah 43:2

‘You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? ‘

Psalms 56:8

My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.

Psalms 62:5

be blessed bbys ✨

6:48 am

I arose so the Sun could greet me

and it decided to do so quietly






it was a bit cold

  a bit wet

maybe I should’ve been more mindful of the rain because it’s washed my greeting away

now everything is blue

the water is blue

the sky is blue

the snakes I imagined running into were green

   not my most redeeming moment


and at this point, I was cold

    I was wet

    I had worn my white rubber birks but

    what can those do to protect your fuzzy socks?

of all the things I packed, I think I brought the most socks

having warm feet is very important


and now I sit in the library in the warm and the quiet, and I realize that the Son came to greet me anyway

I’m not worried about the snakes

       not worried about my socks

       not worried about physics


I’m excited for my day, all I could do with my new friends

making new friends, I’m not as good as I thought

but I am trying

maybe they’ll want to take care of me

maybe I’ll let them


the sky is still blue

I could go back to bed

but let me see if my roommate is awake

I’ll try greeting her quietly


9.14.19, during a much needed retreat