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Oregon’s official state poet returns

Courtesy Anis Mojgani
Anis Mojgani has been re-appointed to the position of Oregon Poet Laureate by Gov. Kate Brown.

Oregon governor Kate Brown reappointed Anis Mojgani as Oregon’s Poet Laureate for a second term. Mojgani, who originally started serving in the coveted position in May 2020, will now continue through 2024.

“I applaud Anis for his creative efforts to connect with Oregonians during the pandemic,” says Governor Brown. “He now has the opportunity to travel and make the personal connections that can be so powerful. Extending his term allows him to fulfill his vision as Poet Laureate.”

When Mojgani took over two years ago, he had to navigate how to perform poetry while keeping audience members safe and socially distant.

“Some ideas were ones that couldn’t happen within a pandemic and other ones were ideas that were birthed because of being in a pandemic, but still weren’t able to come to fruition,” he says.

Known primarily as a spoken-word poet, Mojgani began reciting poems from the window of his art studio in Portland. Eventually, he started to attract fairly large audiences.
“It’s been a really wonderful experience for me. And it has seemed to have been a pretty wonderful experience for the people who’ve gathered to watch.”

As his tenure continued and the state’s restrictions on in-person events slowly eased, Mojgani reached out to communities beyond Portland.

“I was able to make my way to Lincoln City for one of my only in-person visits, working with some of the folks there to foster and imagine what ways poetry might be able to play a part in this new community center,” he says.

In May 2022, during National Poetry Month, he established a tele-poem hotline where a caller could listen to a poem recorded by former Oregon Poet Laureates Paulann Petersen, Kim Stafford, and Elizabeth Woody.

Mojgani had originally conceived the idea for the tele-poem hotline in 2020 but had to put it on hold due to the pandemic.

Now two years later, he has a second chance to finish the projects like the hotline that the pandemic brought to a halt in 2020.

“One of the projects I’ve been wanting to do since I took the position is to create something that’s rooted in poetry that’s on something as disposable and familiar as a newspaper,” he says. “Here’s this opportunity to continue doing something that I really enjoyed doing. But I also have two years’ experience of what that feels like. So any of the elements of growth to experience during the position, I know what this role entails.”

And now that the weather is starting to warm up, Mojgani even plans to return to the balcony of his Portland art studio to recite poetry once again.

“We are always surrounded by poems, even if they are not taking shape as poems. And what are the ways that we may let some of that poetry into our lives?”

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Steven Tonthat