Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week writer, slam poet, and organizer Maya Williams has joined us to discuss the work of Anis Mojgani and poetry as conversation. We hope you enjoy as much as we did, and, as always, thank you for tuning in.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: How did you discover Anis Mojgani?
Maya Williams: I discovered Anis Mojgani upon watching his performance of “Shake the Dust” uploaded to Button Poetry on my birthday in college (it was only uploaded two days before!). I have been obsessed ever since.
AH: In an interview published at Literary Arts, Mojgani stated the following: “That’s what poetry comes down to––the opportunity to make sense of who we are, that we might grow and learn and foster ourselves, and in turn perhaps aid in the growth and learning and fostering of others.” Through interacting with Mojgani’s work and poetry as a whole, what has poetry become for you?
MW: Through interacting with Mojgani’s work and poetry as a whole, poetry becomes for me an expansive conversation. One with myself as I’m reading, one with the writer of the poem (even if the writer cannot respond to me as I’m reading), and with others who may resonate with his work or another writer’s work. It continues to inspire me to make sure my poems in my work can be their own conversations for people.
AH: Why did you choose these poems specifically?
MW: I choose these poems specifically because I wanted to showcase different phases of Mojgani’s work. It’s incredible to see what remains the same in his work and how he has grown overtime not only in his work, but how talks about it and tries to make his work a pulse for social change in any way he can.
AH: What’s next for you? Got any plans you’d like to share (about life, writing, creativity—anything!)?
MW: Ooh! Next for me is finishing up my third semester at Randolph College, working on a thesis right now about the ramifications of the metaphors of mental illness that correlate with the prison industrial complex. I’m excited to start poetry programming with the Portland Public Library in 2022. I was selected as Portland, Maine’s poet laureate in July of this year, which involves community poetry programming I get co-facilitate with fellow poets I admire!
Anis Mojgani is a visual artist and spoken word artist originally from New Orleans. He received his education in Sequential Art then Performing Arts, which led him to joining poetry slam teams. Mojgani currently is the Poet Laureate of the state of Oregon, where he currently resides. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, Rattle, as the Poem-of-the-Day at Poets.org, and have been performed all around the world.
Find his website with his art and writing here.
Watch Mojgani perform “To Where the Trees Grow Tall.”
Discover his book The Feather Room here.
Maya Williams (ey/they/she) is a Black Mixed Race poet and sucide survivor residing in Portland, ME. They have received residencies and fellowships from the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA), Voices of our Nation Arts (VONA) Foundation, The For Us by Us Fund’s Words of Fire Retreat, and Hewnoaks Artist Colony. You can find em as one of the three selected artists of color to represent Maine in The Kennedy Center’s Arts Across America series. You can also find her on her website at mayawilliamspoet.com
Watch Maya read their poem “Definitions of Home.”
Read their poem “The Words We Wear” here.
Read their essay “I’m a Black Suicide Survivor and Joy is My Act of Resistance” here.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Barren Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com