When Anis Mojgani first learned he might be Oregon’s next poet laureate, the COVID-19 pandemic had not taken off in the U.S.
“I was excited at the possibility of seeing the state like I never have and, of course, it was very much not the case,” he said.
A few months later, the Oregon Cultural Trust officially announced Mojgani as the state’s new poet laureate, taking the reins from poet Kim Stafford. By then, COVID-19 had taken root, forcing widespread closures of businesses and schools. Little did he realize his entire tenure would take place during the pandemic.
“It’s been a very strange one,” he said recently, reflecting on the past two years.
He thought he’d be traveling around the state, entertaining crowds with acclaimed work that has appeared on HBO, National Public Radio, and as part of the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day series. An author of five books, Mojgani is a two-time National Poetry Slam champion and one-time World Cup winner and regularly emcees events and slams, such as Verselandia, the annual high school poetry slam organized by Literary Arts.
Instead, he found himself at home in Portland. Like many Americans, he shifted toward virtual readings and workshops, doing what he could to make the most of his role as Oregon’s poet laureate.