Oregon’s New Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani has a long history of bringing poetry to the public (Q&A)
According to Anis Mojgani, poetry opens crucial doors inside people.
“You have this whole fantasy realm behind these doors,” Mojgani said Monday. “And if someone has never told you that you are allowed to see what’s inside these rooms, you are 100% allowed.” It is imperative to frolic in this space just to see what is going on.
On Monday, Mojgani was announced as Oregon’s next Poet Laureate, a two-year nomination that begins May 4. He is the 10th poet in the role, following in the footsteps of Edwin Charles Markham, Ben Hur Lampman, Ethel Romig Fuller, William Stafford, Lawson Inada, Paulann Petersen, Peter Sears, Elizabeth Woody and Kim Stafford.
As the Poet Laureate, Mojgani will receive an annual honorarium of $ 15,000 and an annual travel grant of up to $ 10,000. The position is administered by Oregon Humanities and supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust.
Mojgani was selected by a committee of 20 who made their final recommendation to Governor Kate Brown.
“Anis is the pragmatic optimist Oregon needs in these unprecedented times,” Brown said in a statement Monday. “His words breathe fresh air into the anxiety and negativity we all feel.”
Mojgani (his name is pronounced AH-neess Mozh-GAH-nee) is a New Orleans native who is a two-time National Poetry Slam individual champion and winner of the International Poetry Slam World Cup. He has published five books of poetry, the most recently “In the pockets of little gods”And has performed poetry at hundreds of American universities and at international writers’ festivals.
Here are excerpts from a conversation with Mojgani on Monday.
Question: What brought you to Oregon and what is holding you back here?
Mojgani: Originally, I came to New York for a break, where I lived. My closest friends were in Portland so I came here with the intention of staying here maybe a few months.
A few months turned into six months, and six months into six years. I walked away a bit, then backed off and it’s been another five years.
It is the home of a lot of people that I love, but it is also one of the most beautiful places I have been. I love being able to have a relationship with nature that presents itself to me in Oregon.
The other thing that I think is holding me back here – I really fell in love with the city of Portland. It is not without challenges and frustrations, but it is truly a city that I believe in.
Question: How would you describe your poetry, and why do you write it?
Mojgani: Basically, the reason I write the things I do is to give myself an understanding of my inner world as it interacts with the outside world. It allows me to process what it means to be alive, both the ups and downs of that.
I love the story and I love the language and I love trying to create a beautiful language and beautiful pictures. I really like trying to bond and light up the bonds between human beings.
It is very amazing that we go beyond it and ignore it or confuse it with something else. Having poetry gives me the opportunity to talk about these sightings and find these wonders.
Question: The Oregon Poet Laureate’s mission is to promote the art of poetry, encourage literacy and learning, address central humanities and heritage issues, and reflect on public life. in Oregon. How do you plan to carry out this mission?
Mojgani: We all have the right to put words on paper, whether we call it a poem or not. We all have the power and the permission to do this. For those of us who haven’t been initiated into this reality, I really want them to be initiated into this part of ourselves.
I’m a huge fan of art in public space and would really love to work with, collaborate with other artists to take words that come from the communities themselves and redirect those words into public spaces so that the community can see and read who they are, hopefully on their own streets and in their own buildings.
Question: The Poet Laureate is expected to engage with people across the state. While you’ll have to do it virtually for now, which communities are you most eager to learn more about, and why?
Mojgani: One of the things that really turns me on about this job is that I’ve been living in Portland or having a relationship with her for 15 years now, and around that time there is so much State that I still have not seen or visited.
I haven’t been to Bend for so long, so happy to go to Bend. It’s been so long since I’ve been to Ashland. Any opportunity to go to the coast, I love Astoria. There are so many things along the south coast that I have never been to. I’ve never been to Sisters.
Question: You don’t just write poetry; you are also a prolific performer of poetry, both live and in produced videos. Why do you focus on performance?
Mojgani: I don’t necessarily even know it’s a highlight, but it’s something I love.
Writing poetry and allowing it to be read by someone in a book or on a page has something for me. Saying it out loud and giving it to people with my voice and my body answers something else for me.
Sharing poetry live is an opportunity to say, “Hey, I have the power to myself as a person, and it’s me sharing my power from myself to a group of people”, and it feels good. And there aren’t many opportunities as a human to invite people to take charge.