Hearing slam poet Anis Moigani live brings perspective

Moigani (right) performed in Sewanee as Spencer Blanden (left) and Chase Condrone visited. Photo Courtesy of Chase Condrone.
Moigani (right) performed in Sewanee as Spencer Blanden (left) and Chase Condrone visited. Photo Courtesy of Chase Condrone.

A few times in my college career thus far, I have been afforded the opportunity to do something truly idiotic in the name of experience.

And, whether it was a midnight swim in Lake Lloyd, a 2 a.m. trip to Asheville or a free couch on the side of the road, I have invariably found myself unable to turn down the allure of a story waiting to happen.
On Monday night, March 31, I found myself once again in the throes of an unexpected adventure. Still stiff from the three-hour car ride, but buzzing with anticipation, I settled into the crowded Convocation Hall at Sewanee to await the arrival of slam poet Anis Mojgani.

Mojgani, a two-time National Slam Poetry champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, is counted among the most prolific slam poets alive today and is undoubtedly one of my idols. So, when fellow MC student Spencer Blanden found out about the event and asked if I wanted to go, the choice was easy. We would soon find that our frantic last-minute planning and determination to go no matter the difficulties would pay off.

Fifteen minutes later, a man no taller than 5-foot-5-inches stood before us in a flannel shirt and horn-rimmed glasses with light bouncing off the parts of his skull where his curly mess of black hair receded. This small, unassuming man was none other than Anis Mojgani. After a few words and a joke about Mr. Rogers of all things, he began his first poem:

“Come closer. Come into this. Come closer. What beautiful battlefields you are.”

And that was it. The room was hooked. For two hours he talked, told life stories, delivered poem after poem about his wife and lemon trees and caterpillar bites, and through it all kept pushing and pushing this idea onto the audience that they must come closer, that life should be embraced not simply accepted. Again and again, his call for self-betterment rang forth, imploring the audience to “shake the dust” and “rock out like this was the last weekend, like these were the last words, like you don’t ever want to forget how.”

This more than anything reflects the unique beauty of Mojgani’s work and the primary reason he has had so much success in an industry founded on expression. While many of his poems are clever and the concepts original, the value of Mojgani’s work lies in its attention to human nature. Each poem comments on society and demands that it change for the better. Watching Mojgani perform, you see all at once the social commentator, the humanitarian, the wordsmith and the flawed, floundering human being.

From this, Mojgani is able to reach his audience in an intensely powerful way.

At the culmination of the evening, he thanked the spectators for their support, invited all to come speak with him after the show, and performed his final poem. After he finished, Blanden and I sat for a few moments in awe that this reality could live up so fully to the amazing videos we had seen. I believe Anis Mojgani provides the kind of performance you cannot leave without having a different perspective than the one you came in with.

Furthermore, his offer of post-show conversation was not merely a formality. Even after his immense popularity and the several years he has now been performing, Mojgani still takes the time to meet with everyone of his audience members at the merchandise table after the show, take pictures, laugh and continue to spread the joy and camaraderie that lay so heavily at the heart of his poetry.

Mojgani’s performance is one I will not soon forget for many reasons. First and foremost, the content and quality of his poetry is truly entrancing. Mojgani is more than able to deliver a performance that will keep an audience engaged. Now, having experienced something so moving, I return to MC with one thought burning on my mind:

“Come closer. Come into this.”

Do not wait for these opportunities to find you. Go out and take them. Stretch your mind and seek out beauty so that all those around you may benefit from the joy that you find.

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