Anis Mojgani Brings Slam to Williston
by Kate Snyder

Coming to Williston this April, national poetry month, will be two-time National Poetry Slam Champion Anis Mojgani. The author of five books of poetry who has appeared on HBO, NPR, and in the pages of many literary journals, Mojgani’s performance and engagement with classes here will be the culmination of months of study on poetry and performance. His artist-in-residence is part of the Grum Project, funded by a generous alumna.

During his visit April 11 to 13, Mojgani will visit and work with three classes each on the first two days and two on the last day, including a Directing class. He will discuss not only the process of writing and performing spoken word poetry, but also share how he found his voice in this medium.

Since autumn, the English Department and the Visual and Performing Arts Department have been learning about spoken word poetry. Their studies will culminate in a Spoken Word Festival headlined by Mojgani. Every Williston Northampton School student will have the experience of writing and performing a spoken word piece, and two or three students from each grade will perform at the festival.

Mojgani grew up in New Orleans, the son of an engineer father from Iran and a book-loving African-American mother. “I grew up on Willow St,” Mojgani writes on his website in sort of a freeform poem, “in an Uptown neighborhood known as Riverbend, cuz it was by the bend in the Mississippi. On one corner of our block was the abandoned gas station rusted and falling apart, on the other was the laundromat that also sold candy and spicy pickles in a gross jar and pickled pigs feet in a grosser jar, and in the summertime, snowballs, which are like snow-cones but better cuz the ice is shaved fine enough to make it feel like ice cream almost and they have a lot more flavors.”

He received a B.F.A. in comic books at the Savannah College of Art and Design and went on to study performance there receiving an M.F.A. He then moved to New York City to be part of the spoken word community and started performing in poetry slams.  

“What’s great about Slam is that it’s not meant to be exclusive–anyone is invited to participate,” he writes. “You don’t need a dj or a beat for you, just you and an audience.”

Harvesting melons

my heart is made of white stone
and tall

you made this
with your hands
you pulled the stones 
from the mud yourself
and stacked them on the river’s bank
one atop the other
the honey dew melons
full on the vines
you stood back
hands dripping 
wiped across your legs
stared at it
marveling in the sunlight
at how easy it was to do this
how much the rocks wanted 
to be something 
that your fingers pushed together
that they almost floated 
inside your palms
and sung to be lifted into the air

By Anis Mojgani