Oregon has a really cool poet laureate. And now we get to benefit from a second two-year term of Anis Mojgani's creative and kind advocacy for poetry and the humanities.
On Wednesday, Gov. Brown extended Mojgani's term as Oregon Poet Laureate through 2024. Brown lauded Mojgani's efforts to raise poetry's profile during the pandemic—encouraging poetic literacy is part of the gig—but also noted that, due to shut down, Mojgani hadn't been able to take part in many of the benefits of the position.
“He now has the opportunity to travel and make the personal connections that can be so powerful," she said in a press release from the Oregon Cultural Trust.
Though he originally hails from New Orleans, Mojgani has been making marks on Oregon's poetry scene for nearly two decades. In 2008, a Wordstock-adjacent poetry slam organized by Mojgani, who is also a National Poetry Slam winner, saw all six competitors split the victory pot equally, regardless of who won.
In 2016, Mercury writer Rachel Sandstrom described Mojgani's visual aesthetic as "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (you'll still catch him in a signature bright-colored beanie), but went on to rave about his particular delivery of his works, especially his iconic piece "Shake the Dust." "He's so good that even the comments sections on his videos are pleasant," Sandstrom wrote, "full of (correctly spelled!) emotional reactions to his writing: 'this brings me to tears every time,' "brilliant,' 'amazing amazing amazing.'"
Last month, Portland Monthly penned a terrific profile, about Mojgani's struggle to take full advantage of his term during shut down. Inspired by a port-a-potty from a nearby construction project, Mojgani's mind skipped over to a "phone booth where somebody could call and hear a poem."
By April 1, Mojgani had launched a Tele-Poem Hotline for those who want to dial in and listen to a rotating slate of poems read by a Poet Laureate. Although the line was created for National Poetry Month, in April, it's still running at this time of publishing.
Mojgani’s poems at sunset out a window series represents another one of his inventive, community-focused approaches to art at a distance. For most of the pandemic, he has semi-regularly hosted readings from his Southeast Industrial writing studio. Over time, a small crowd of poem-fancying regulars formed, wrapped in scarves and sitting in camper chairs around the open window.
"I jacketed up [and] set up a stool on the sidewalk," Mojgani wrote on his Instagram, about a recent reading. "[And] Jenn had my looooong... stick sticking out the window with a lightbulb attached to it like we were fishing with light, casting the line into the river of night."
Recently, Mojgani has been keeping poem pamphlets in an old newspaper box in front of his studio. Yes! It's an old Mercury box! Old stone to new building, as T.S. Eliot would say.
(Call Tele-Poem Hotline at (503) 928-7008 to hear one of seven rotating poems, read by an Oregon Poet Laureate. Follow Mojgani on Instagram for announcements about upcoming poems at sunset out a window readings.)