(published September 21, 2012)
The Oberlin College community came out in droves to the Cat in the Cream last Saturday night to see slam poet Anis Mojgani, packing the entire venue with the sweaty bodies of poetry enthusiasts. Some were lucky enough to grab a table or a spot on a lumpy couch with friends, but plenty of less fortunate fans waited just outside the door, hoping to be let into the already overcrowded coffeehouse. Improvised overflow seating included comfy patches of floor on the stage itself, as fans encircled poet Anis Mojgani physically and with their rapt attention.
Associate Professor of Creative Writing Kazim Ali opened for Mojgani without having had much time to prepare, but he still captivated the audience with his performance. Ali read three poems by Lucille Clifton (“Sarah’s Promise,” “Lucifer Speaks in his Own Voice” and an “Untitled”), which shared similar themes to Mojgani’s poems — love, sacrifice and finding oneself. Mojgani’s insightful poetry was supplemented by his casual and entertaining presence. He began many of his poems with a bold maxim, and as the poem continued, he built speed and drama as he took the audience through a climactic experience. As if to offset the heavy emotional resonance of each poem, Mojgani interspersed his performance with self-deprecating jokes and humorous anecdotes about his youth. The levity brought to the show by Mojgani’s informal tone and pleasant sense of humor enabled the audience to focus its attention on each poem in turn.
Mojgani’s charm and playful use of language quickly endeared him to the huge crowd at the Cat in the Cream. Click here for the full story.
A powerful aspect of Mojgani’s work is its ability to capture the joys and frustrations of modern young-adulthood. Whether conveyed through the story of an old fisherman reading his favorite tales to fish, a vignette about going out to a party or a narrative about falling in love for the first time, Mojgani brought meaning to these moments and emotions that we experience in our everyday lives. His message encouraged listeners to appreciate being young by embracing uncertainty and insecurity, and to continue the search for significance in the swirling confusion of life.
The audience was completely enthralled as Mojgani performed. Fingers snapped and grins spread around the room as he transitioned from describing a beloved place to vividly articulating an emotion. Mojgani used alliteration when speaking and rhymed his lines about everything from gentle words of love to shouted swears about societal hypocrisy. His simple, serene “thank you” at the end of each poem and the sudden applause that followed were the only things that seemed to bring the audience back from the deep trance of contemplation that his poems evoked.
Sharing awe and appreciation for the power of words and the genuine emotion and reflection they can stir up was a beautiful way to spend the evening. Mojgani’s riveting performance, accompanied by the room’s obvious enthusiasm for the spoken word, left those in attendance firmly convicted of the power and beauty of poetry.