Arts & Culture

Spoken word icon performs, inspires

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, April 6, 2012

Anis Mojgani gave a rousing spoken word performance Wednesday night, speaking to a packed audience in Salomon 001. Mojgani’s performance, which coincides with National Poetry Month, was sponsored by Brown’s spoken word troupe Word! and the Brown International Organization.

Mojgani, a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, last performed at Brown in 2008. Zainab Syed ’14 said Word! was excited to see Mojgani back as he “sets a standard” of spoken word that members of the troupe aspire to reach.

Three opening acts preceded Mojgani’s performance. Nicole Parrish ’12 opened the show with a poem she wrote during her freshman year, the night she saw Mojgani perform. On her way back to her dorm, she said, “I was composing as I walked.” Parrish conveyed the immediacy of the writing process in her emphatic performance. “Let the words pulse onto the page / better yet, let me be your page,” she said.

Syed introduced the second opener, Laura Brown-Lavoie ‘10.5, as “the reason I joined Word!” Brown-Lavoie began her poem, which championed the majesty of the public library, in a whisper. “I like to pretend this is where my taxes are going,” Brown-Lavoie said of the library, eliciting laughter and snaps from the audience.

Syed and Paul Tran ’14 then performed together, interweaving two disparate stories about leaving in one combined poem. The two alternated speaking except for select overlapping phrases. “Leaving has always been the easy part,” they said together, “but I don’t know if I can leave this place.”

Mojgani took the stage at 9 p.m., warming up the audience with an anecdote about shopping for pants to wear at a TED Talk he gave last week.

The audience responded with snaps and general enthusiasm while he performed his first poem – a piece about a fisherman who “empties himself” reading poems to fish about the human condition.

Many of Mojgani’s poems touched deeply on questions about the place of people in our inhospitable modern world. Contrasting the harshness of contemporary society with the delicacy of nature, he said of a child, “this world hates your fingers / little like the stems of flowers.”

Much of Mojgani’s poetry also dealt with nostalgia – whether for the innocence of childhood, for the glory of America and “what it once was” or for living in the same town as his friends. He spoke volubly, seasoned in translating words into meaning and alternated between pausing for effect and moving quickly past significant lines.

The tone of his poetry shifted from wistfulness to reverent appreciation when Mojgani performed poems about his wife of 10 months. “This is how you make me feel / like I will live forever / like there is nothing that can harm me,” he said.

In closing, Mojgani performed “Shake the Dust,” a poem which the audience recognized and celebrated from its opening lines, “this is for the fat girls / this one’s for the little brothers.” Several members of the audience – affected by the poem – reacted audibly when Mojgani said, “for the girl who loves somebody else.”

Mojgani received a standing ovation at the end of his performance. Tim Natividad ’12, a member of Word!, said good poetry is both “original and accessible,” which accounts for the reach of Mojgani’s work.

Audience member Jeremy Perlman ’15 appreciated that Mojgani’s poetry was both funny and moving. Spoken word is “a good way of bringing poetry into the modern age,” he said, as the poetry seems to be “almost a dialogue between the poet and the audience.”

Natividad noted the “diverse array” of poetic styles currently in practice, and the demand for exposure to different spoken word artists. Sponsoring Mojgani is exciting for Word!, he said, because “it’s important to show the rest of Brown where spoken poems can go.”