Anis Mojgani Out Loud: Slam Poetry and Space Ducks

This is not the type of material one expects from the two-time National Poetry Slam
champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam. However,
expectations generally do not prevent Mojgani from saying what he wants to say, and he did just that in his performance on March 6.

“For me,
one of the joys of writing is exploration and discovery and not knowing what it
is that I’m going to write,” Mojgani said.

As a result, the audience often
does not know what to expect. Qualities that people commonly attribute to slam poetry—loud, fast, hip hop-influenced and politically focused—are not always what one finds in his poems, Mojgani said, adding that “a good
chunk of my work has nothing to do with any of those things.”

something in Mojgani’s work connects with his audiences. Many of his poems discuss
youthfulness with a hint of nostalgia, and he uses innocent anecdotes—such as stories of his childhood in New Orleans, or a description of instance where he spoke to a child he had never met before—as an avenue to
comment on issues he sees in the world. This focus on innocence  played out gracefully in his poems, with lines such as “we once went to bed like between the bed sheets
was a valley with dinosaurs still breathing” striking a chord with the audience.

“A lot of
the things I have explored over the years deal with trying to share with others
the importance of their existence,” Mojgani said. “If there’s something I’ve
made that speaks to that, and someone hears and receives that and it helps with
something in their day-to-day life and challenges, as poetry has helped me in
my day-to-day challenges, then that is extremely rewarding for me.”

His “Space
Ducks” segment and the poem it prefaced, “The Pledge,” both focused on
childhood and individual importance. “The Pledge” was inspired by Mojgani’s
daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school and his
confusion of the word “indivisible” with the word “invisible.”

“In the
innocence of kickball and cooties I pledged my allegiance,” Mojgani said,
briefly returning to his high-pitched tone from “Space Ducks” for comedic
relief in an imitation of elementary school children reciting the pledge,
before continuing on to more serious analysis of what that pledge truly

Mojgani appreciates
the license he can take with spoken word poetry and its opportunity for experimentation, like using his high-pitched voice, as “there’s far less of a buffer between the artist and
their art and the audience,” Mojgani said. Furthermore, each performance of his
poetry is different based on how he s feeling that night and the reactions from
the audience.

Pomona is one of many college campuses at which Mojgani has recently performed, and he noted how the college audience “vibe” affects the atmosphere of his

college shows has its pros and cons,” Mojgani said. “One of the cons is that a
lot of the audience is sort of the same… it’s a narrower feel in ages and
backgrounds and class. The more diverse an audience, the more interesting and
exciting a show can be. One of the pros is that they’re very hungry to absorb
work and hear it.”

Mojgani said
college students are particularly likely to want to absorb poetry in slam form
because slam poetry is a competition; “competition is the oldest narrative,”
and it involves the audience in the performance by giving them someone to root

“A lot that happens on stage is
really attractive to young folks because it shows them a lot more immediacy,
urgency and relevancy of what poetry can do for them,” Mojgani said.  

Furthermore, with new forums such
as YouTube being used to expose people to poetry, the increase in the audience of slam
poets including Mojgani has increased rapidly, largely thanks to college-aged

“I think ultimately anything that
introduces people to poetry is fantastic,” Mojgani said, though he believes
that if one were only to absorb poetry through YouTube, their experience would
be homogenized, as mostly younger poets with similar styles use the site. He hopes “being exposed to that will then also turn them on to looking for
other [poetry] in different avenues.”

Despite the nostalgic focus of many
of Mojgani’s poems, regret is never an aspect of his writing, as it has not
been an aspect of his life. Despite the challenges of becoming a professional
poet, Mojgani says he embraces every step of his past. One of these steps is the “Space
Ducks” segment he performed, which caused the packed room to burst
into giggles. Mojgani only started performing the segment in the past year to
“switch some things up, lighten the room a little,” Mojgani said. However, the
piece is originally from the hidden track on the first spoken word CD he did in
his college days, over a decade ago.

“It was a voice that one day when I
was biking around… I started talking like that and it really made me laugh,”
Mojgani said. “That was more than ten years ago, but it started to resurface in
my shows. It’s just something to have fun with, something different, and an
interesting way to lead into using that voice in the following poem.”

Mojgani has embraced his childhood
and his day-to-day past as inspiration. He values his entire existence, and
seeks to make his audience feel that way as well.

“Whatever you have a burning desire
to do, and what you feel will bring your heart happiness, then you follow that
to whatever ends,” Mojgani said as final advice to the audience. “You find a
way to make it exist in your life.”

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