By Alice Beecher
I want to live in the world that Anis Mojgani sees, with all its joy and sorrow and magic and cake. I want to be able to hear his poems—which are all somewhere between hymns and vaudeville acts—every night before I go to sleep. I want him to be my guru and my best friend.
Playing to a cramped but cozy crowd at the Cat in the Cream this Thursday, Mojgani – world-renowned slam poet from Austin, Texas, originally hailing from New Orleans – elicited his fair share of cathartic sighs from audience members. With agile hand gestures that were almost as beautiful as the poetry itself, Mojgani represents the power a performance poet can have. Knowing just when to shift from absurdist jokes about penises to weighty contemplations about humanity, Mojgani’s performance was thrilling for its dynamism and emotional fluidity. He tells us he is trying to find God everywhere. He also says to fuck stars in the meantime.
Mojgani opened with his well-loved classic, “Come Into Me,” imploring us to “come closer” and witness the beauty of existence—as we did when we were “thirteen and wanted to be alive with a girl who was thirteen and alive,” or when “the ghosts we have asked answers of turn into things called light.” The beauty of Mojgani’s poetry is the humility with which he delivers such reverential lines; that, despite his incredible insight, he admits that he is as fearful and dumbfounded as the rest of us. He wants to remind us that “there is joy in how your mouth has teeth,” that even if we turn into “waitresses and junkies” we are still at heart those same thirteen year-olds looking for soul in the school yard.
Mojgani’s stage banter provided a welcome respite from the seriousness of his poetry, and throughout the night he seemed genuinely happy to have arrived at our albino squirrel-laden campus. Clearly, his enthusiasm for humanity goes far beyond his ego or conception of himself as a poet – a humility that distinguishes him from many other slammers.
Later, his “Elementary School Pledge of Allegiance” poem went over well with the audience. A fully embodied performer, Mojgani began the poem in a hilarious squeaky voice that later shifted to soul-exploding profundity in a series of lines as he expressed his desire for our nation to use “his gut and his mind and his heart,” and wishing that all Americans’ minds would burn with as much wonder and questioning as achingly as they did when they were “alive and six years old.” Uniting the personal and the political can be a tough trick, and I applaud Mojgani for being able to do it so fluidly.
After a few more outrageously beautiful poems that practically demanded us to listen, including a poem dedicated to Cat in the Cream barista Scout Coodley and others with punch-in-the-gut holy lines like, “I want to light fireworks in the fists of sleeping kings” and “she makes me feel like cities growing inside my chest,” Mojgani had the audience totally absorbed in his romantic and hilarious deconstructions of the world. After a few sad sighs from the crowd, Mojgani ended with the evocative and galvanizing “Shake the Dust,” a poem dedicated to “the midnight bike riders trying to fly” and the “two year olds that speak half-English and half-God.” Counseling us to remember to let our days “burn at both ends” and to not let the heavy muck of existence weigh on our chest forever, I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only person affected by Mojgani’s performance. As cerebral and holy as he is earthly and entirely real, Anis Mojgani is a poet who makes people wake up to what they’ve been ignoring.