Those that attended Student Entertainment Events’ Back to School Poetry Slam turned their Monday night into a time for sensitive reflection. Poet Anis Mojgani and duo The Asia Project elicited emotion out of nearly all attendees in the Stamp Atrium through their deep, touching pieces. By the end of the evening, the room was filled with cheers, laughter and tears.
Terpoets vice president Ren Fajardo opened the show with three of her original works. Before reciting her first poem, Fajardo began the event by creating a safe space for the poets and audience. She encouraged listeners to snap their fingers, cry or let out a satisfying “mmm” whenever they deemed necessary.
Fajardo shared her personal experiences as a woman of color through her poetry and touched upon conversation-provoking topics related to gender and race.
“Sharing your truth and sharing your story is not easy,” Fajardo said to the crowd.
Fajardo said this university afforded her great opportunities and access to foster her goal of being a poet. She has worked toward this goal through her involvement on campus in the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House, which connected her to Terpoets.
The Asia Project took the stage next with an act that combined raw, personal poetry with the melodic sounds of acoustic guitar. Poet Asia Samson began reciting his first work as soon as he reached the microphone. Jollan, his brother-in-law, offered powerful musical accompaniment.
Samson prefaced his performance by saying that he hoped audience members would leave thinking, “I really needed to hear those things tonight.”
The duo guided the audience through an emotionally taxing adventure, and their work resonated with many. Some listeners sobbed while others snapped their fingers during the deepest emotional moments of their act, like Samson’s poem about losing his sister after a brain surgery.
Samson introduced Mojgani to the stage as the final act. The two-time National Poetry Slam champion preceded his first poem with an acknowledgement that Monday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Mojgani continuously addressed the importance of identity and confidence throughout his poems.
“Do not forget yourself,” Mojgani said as he performed one of his most famous works, “Shake The Dust.”
His echoing southern drawl engaged listeners as he alluded to the life of Michael Collins, the third astronaut who accompanied Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11. Mojgani found the lack of recognition for Collins’ career to be hilarious yet heartbreaking.
Following his performance, Mojgani partook in a Q&A session, where he shared his experiences growing up in New Orleans and his black and Iranian heritage.
Mojgani said New Orleans was weird, but the city’s “strange magic” finds its way into his work very frequently. Though he considers New Orleans to be a diverse city, Mojgani shared that he had few specific, strong connections to either of his heritages. He shared that he has had to partake in an ongoing conversation with himself regarding his relationships with both his cultural backgrounds.
Mojgani thanked the audience, who left feeling sensitive yet satisfied.