does one see poetry performed like this.
spoken word poet Anis Mojgani performed at Claremont McKenna College’s Marian
Miner Cook Athenaeum Sept. 24 in front of a large and adoring audience. A two-time National Poetry Slam Champion and winner of the International World Cup
Poetry Slam, Mojgani has spoken for TEDx and has served as resident of the Oregon
Literary Arts Writers-in-the-Schools program.
on the stage, Mojgani exclaimed, “I’m feeling all tingly and fantastic!” and proceeded to take a selfie with the audience. It was then that Mojgani
eased into his set.
to have your hearts and minds open?” Mojgani asked. “Well, get ready to be disappointed.
Lower your expectations to get what you want in life.”
intertwining his opening words and his poetic set, Mojgani opened with “Here I
Am,” an original piece about adolescent expectations. But it was not the
astoundingly heartfelt poem that made his recitation phenomenal: It was his
performance. Mojgani held impeccable diction, masterful speed and perfect
control throughout his performance.
audience hung on every one of Mojgani’s words, and he finished each poem to thunderous
set was overwhelmingly focused on perspective: his own perspective, the perspectives
of people of all different types and the synthesis of everyone’s collective
experience. Most notable about his performance, though, was his fearless
juxtaposition of the taboo and the mundane as he made analogies as unlikely as
“serial killers or possums.”
isn’t to say that he was averse to the controversial. Mojgani also performed
“21 Thoughts on the Stereotype that All Brown People Are Terrorists,” which was
both critical and humorous.
were especially touched by Mojgani’s eye-opening performance.
first time I heard Anis was out of some iPhone’s speaker in my 11th-grade
Precalculus class,” Miguel Pulido PZ ’18 said. “It was in that moment that I
realized what I wanted to spend my life doing—Anis opened my mind to what oral
and artistic performance can really be.”
one point in his playful performance, Mojgani randomly began speaking in a robot’s
voice. Fans should not wait around for more vocal interpretation—Mojgani made
it clear that such performances are rare.
When asked if he would provide such voices for all the experiences he embodies, Mojgani explained that he is not always so comfortable with impersonations.
wish I was brave enough to do that—Goddamn it,” he said.
the last poem, the floor was opened for questions. Members
of the audience were overwhelmingly curious about Mojgani’s poetic prowess. When
one student asked about the process of finding one’s individual poetic voice, Mojgani
replied that finding one’s voice is less of a destination, and more of a
continuous journey, “following [his] path.”
question-and-answer session continued until the last possible minute, when the
audience was visibly blown away by Mojgani’s overall performance.
Some students were surprised that
Mojgani was brought to the Athenaeum in the first place. Many found the slam
poet slightly out of place in the Ath’s usual set of speakers, but a welcome change.
“I am really excited that CMC and the Athenaeum
are focusing more efforts on the arts and are being more open about this gap
in the CMC community,” Christine Wilkes CM ’16 said.
Wilkes cited CMC’s lack of emphasis on the arts as
a problem that has been present at the school throughout her experience there.
Fortunately for Claremont’s patrons of the arts, Wilkes said this issue is being
effectively addressed with events such as these.
All told, it would seem attendees agreed: Mojgani injected the perfect dose of whimsy into the Ath with his presentation. But one cannot forget the broader implications of his work. One poem at a time, he is redefining the social definition of brilliant art.