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Bringing the Oregon Poet Laureate to the Applegate Valley

Poetry performances don’t usually draw a crowd, but almost 150 people turned up at the Applegate Valley’s Plaisance Ranch to see Oregon’s Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani. This was particularly impressive considering that thick wildfire smoke had rolled into the valley on the afternoon of his September 22nd performance .

But Anis has a magnetic spoken-word style and it isn’t often that our far-flung rural area gets paid a visit by the poet laureate. Applegaters are very used to having to drive to town for such high-profile events so it was a special thing to have people from all over the Rogue Valley drive out to the Applegate for a change.

The performance, called Poetry in the Pasture, was awarded grant money from A Greater Applegate because it fit in with the cultural goals articulated in the Vibrant & Liveable portion of the Applegate Valley Vision. Over the years of 2019 and 2020, A Greater Applegate held listening sessions throughout the Applegate Valley to hear what residents wanted for the Valley’s future. The resulting 89-page Vision document outlines the goals and strategies for realizing that vision.

“I was really concerned about the turn out,” event organizer Christina Ammon said. “Would people drive all this way for poetry? And then smoke rolled in and I began to really despair!” But by the time the event started, she was pleased to look out and see a full venue. “I was so moved I was nearly in tears!”

Anis was joined by Oregon Book Award nominee, Nick Jaina, who brought a musical element to the evening. He backed Anis’ reading with atmospheric music and also shared some of his own writings.

The Applegate Poets had a role in the event as well. Diana Coogle opened the performance with a recitation of her Stein Butte poem and other local poets printed and displayed their work, creating a “Poetry Walk” at the venue.

“We live pretty practical lives out here in the country,” Christina said. “But I’m glad our rural community makes a place for poetry in their lives. Also, I think a lot of people from around the Rogue Valley came out and were reminded of how magical the Applegate is!”