The Tigers, They Let Me
Q&A with Anis Mojgani
You are the poet laureate of Oregon. To most writers it sounds like a dream come true. What is good about the honor and what are some things folks may not expect about the position?
It is such an honor and the goodness of it is that one, while it’d be nice to not worry so much about outside validation of self, it still is really affirming and empowering to to serve in this position––as a poet, an artist, and someone who calls Oregon home. Also, being able to be supported in exploring what are the ways that I might expand my own creations and vessels for poetry, and also engaging in conversations with communities with the hopes to expand and foster poetry within them.
For me, the largest challenge has been to go from navigating poetry from a place that I pretty much only have to worry about my own internal conversation with it, to suddenly wondering what and if there are expectations from others in how I serve the appointment. That and the increase in emails :)
What is the first book that made you cry?
The first memory I have of crying from a book was Where the Red Fern Grows. I think we read that in 4th grade? Maybe 5th? And reading it in bed, late, when I should have been asleep, and it breaking my 9 year old heart.
How do you define success in poetry?
I feel there’s many different ways to define this depending on what any of us are wanting at any given moment from our engagement with poetry, so I know for me there hasn’t been a one bar to strive towards and feasibly attain. I think that what it comes down to is whether one is setting out to give space to the languageless aspects of being human and whether we succeed in imbuing such with language that impresses some connection or clarity, whether to our own self or to others.
What illustrators and musicians are ruling you right now?
I forever love illustrators Carson Ellis, Eleanore Davis, Jon Klassen. Others: Charlotte Ager, Yael Frankel, Yas Imamura, Jillian Tamaki, Jesus Cisneros.
Musicians I love right now, or at least certain songs that been staying on repeat: Helado Negro, Saba, Anika, h hunt, Spencer Krug, Wildlife Freeway, Damien Jurado, Slauson Malone, Okay Kaya
You get to carry three poems into heaven. Which three do you take with you that you have written and which three of others?
“Razi’s Lemon Tree”
“To where the trees grow tall”
And whatever the one was that I wrote most recently before I passed. Or The Pocketknife Bible, as technically it is one poem, and maybe it might provide me a road map to what here made me, and what here might need to find its way back to me on the other side.
So many poems I would love to carry with me from this world into the next.
Today I would choose:
Lucille Clifton’s “won’t you celebrate with me”
Ross Gay’s “spoon”
And Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”