Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Anis Mogjani

If you’ve ever walked by the Sunnyside playground and seen a crowd gathered in front of one of the buildings lining Yamhill, you might have wandered into “Poems at Sunset out a Window,” an impromptu event hosted by Anis Mojgani, the Poet Laureate of Oregon. Anis is also a visual artist, currently finishing the art for his forthcoming children’s book Lifespans of a Rock. He has been Poet Laureate since 2020, a gig that takes him from Medford to Enterprise to nurture poetry in our state.

Raised in New Orleans, Anis first moved to Portland in 2004. After a brief stint in Austin from 2011-2015, he came back because, as he puts it, Portland held “the largest contingent of people who I love, and people who love me.” For years he has lived in a house off Hawthorne called “The Pointy House” with a group of friends, and he runs into a friend wherever he goes in Sunnyside. We sat down at Stumptown on Belmont to talk poetry and Portland.

When did you get your studio on Yamhill?

Anis: I got that space in February of ‘22. At that time, I had an office in conjunction with the Poet Laureate appointment in Southwest over at the shipyard, which was really rad, but it wasn’t conducive to visual stuff, and I really wanted someplace close to the house.

My friend Lilith has a ceramic studio in that building [on Yamhill]. It’s basically three buildings connected, and she and somebody else were in one of the other buildings. The building that my studio is in was completely empty at the time. Kevin, the guy who had just bought it, was planning at that time to either knock it down or gut it. And so, I was like, ‘Hey, Kevin, can I use one of these empty rooms?’ And he’s like, ‘Here are the keys, I’ll probably have to kick you out in six months to gut it.’ But his plans changed, and so, after six, eight, 10 months, I just started paying rent, and other folks moved into the building.

And you do events there.

Anis: I started doing these readings where I just read poems out of the window. We started doing that in March of ‘22, and it has always been very loose—a little intentional looseness. I’ll make a poster to put up on my Instagram one to three days before the night of the reading. It’s pretty much always been at sunset, and most of them have  been on Fridays. Folks just show up.

This past year when we did it, there were 250 to 300 folks just sitting in the street. Cars can’t easily drive down the street because it’s between the back fence of Sunnyside [Environmental School] and the building. It’s people sitting there, standing, and we hang out for an hour, and then we go off into the night and that’s that. The first one came about as a result of my friend, Jenn coming by to hang out, and we ended up just hanging out via the window, just me in the window, and her on the street, and us talking. And it was just so nice. It felt very neighborhoody, and we were like, ‘This was super fun. We should do this with more people.’

It wasn’t anything that was like, right, let’s find a space and let’s do this thing. It was just sort of like, all right, hey, we did this thing, and this was fun, and folks enjoyed it, so we kept doing it. It’s something that started revealing its intent and purpose, which felt really in line with how to explore and expand what we all might envision as being a show, a performance. What’s the relationship between artists and audiences? What are the ways in which too much of our day-to-day world is one that requires us to engage in a transaction? What are the ways to build a space that doesn’t ask someone anything, just allows them to just be with others?

Cities are always changing, and I think whoever is sitting at the top of the ladder in cities, is usually moving those cities towards things that probably the majority of the people in the city aren’t asking for. It’s felt in these recent years that Portland is very much in a place like that. And so, the window I think, allows me as an individual to create something that leans toward a city that I want, and the city that I want to see. And hopefully by way of that it also invites other people to think about what a city means.

I think often we think about cities as being something that is constructed and legislated, and that’s part of it. But, cities are also a person saying poems out of a window, or putting a mural on this wall, or organizing a food drive, or setting up a food pantry, or whatever it might be. And so, what are the ways that any of us might be called to think, ‘I’ll build this little part of the city’? The poetry window allows me to engage with the political activism that is important to me but also fits with me.

Can you tell me about the Poet Laureate program?

Anis: I’m in the last chunk of my second term. The terms are generally two years with the possibility of being renewed for a second term. I started on May 4th of 2020. I’ll conclude in May of this year. In the fall, [the organizers] open it up to the Oregon-wide community to nominate someone who they feel would be good in the role. Then they contact nominees and ask them to send applications if they’re interested. They apply, and a committee of artists and organizations go through a committee selection process. They make a selection, send it to the governor, and the governor says yes (or no). The only really tangible tactile responsibility is to do 20 public engagements over the course of those two years. It comes with a $15,000 stipend each year, and each year there’s $10,000 allotted for budgetary expenses for travel and whatnot.

For me, it’s about having a position, having a support system to introduce, deliver, foster, allow, and support poetry to and for the people of Oregon, however that might look.

What do you hope to see in Portland in the coming year or years?

Anis: Oh, man. What I would love to see for Portland is a city that really seeks to take care of all of its residents. Yes, of course, the many folks that are living without anything, and also just all of us. I think that’s the thing that’s been really frustrating over these last several years. It almost feels as if the city doesn’t know how to take care of anyone.

In the last three years it feels like the city’s like, ‘What does the Portland Business Alliance want? Be quiet, everyone else. They’re the people who we’ve got to save first.’ I want to see steps towards a lot of inclusivity for the people who live here. And also just to see action taken. It’s my understanding that the level of money and resources specifically devoted towards houselessness services has just disappeared at the end of the year, and nothing has happened. I want action. Even if it’s like, ah, this reveals itself to not have been the right decision. It’s like, just try something.

I also think about different plans and ideas that have surfaced over the years I’ve been in Portland that just haven’t come to fruition. One idea was basically a very green, lush, shiny bike highway that was envisioned for connecting both sides of the river. Seeing something like that would be amazing. What are the ways in which development in the city can happen that serves the city not just five people’s bank accounts?

It’s a city that is, I think, rich in creativity, rich in the arts, rich in cultural events, and cultural affairs. What are the ways that we might capitalize on this, for lack of a better word, and support these things?

To learn about the next Poems at Sunset out a Window, follow Anis on Instagram at @Thepianofarm

Lydia Kiesling is a writer who lives in Sunnyside. Her latest novel, Mobility, came out in August.

Attend Climate Candidates’ Forum for U.S. House District 3 on April 18th

With the retirement of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, voters in Oregon District 3 will elect a new Congressional Representative to send to Washington D.C. On April 18th, the Portland chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) will host a climate-themed candidates’ forum for this open seat at Taborspace (5441 SE Belmont St). At press time, both Susheela Jayapal and Maxine Dexter had confirmed their attendance. 

 Local volunteer climate advocates will host the forum which will be moderated by KGW meteorologist Matt Zaffino. Questions will be focused on climate change and climate-related issues at the Federal level. All candidates will answer the same questions and will be given equal time to do so. Members of the media are welcome to attend and space will be provided for them to set up audio and/or video recording of the event. 

There may be time for presubmitted audience questions after the prepared questions. 

Portland Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a nonpartisan organization which does not endorse or support individual candidates or political parties. All candidates running for District 3 were invited to attend. 

This will be a great opportunity for the public to learn about candidates’ climate positions and make sure that climate legislation will be a priority. Doors open at 6 pm with time to meet and greet local climate groups. The Forum will start at 7 pm. Registration is not required but encouraged. Registration: For questions contact: Dylan Hinson at [email protected]. To learn more about our work, visit

Inner Eastside For All

The Sunnyside Neighborhood Association has been asked to sign onto a letter supporting the rezoning of Sunnyside and other eastside neighborhoods to allow for more multi-family housing. The group requesting our support, Portland: Neighbors Welcome, is a volunteer organization that advocates for housing abundance and tenants’ advocacy. The “Inner Eastside for All” concept proposes to re-legalize a broader range of housing types, up to multi-family mixed-use buildings throughout the Inner Eastside beyond transit corridors. The suggested boundaries for this rezone run from SE 12th out to 60th and from NE Fremont down to Powell Blvd. According to the letter, “Rezoning to allow additional mixed-use and multifamily buildings in large parts of the district will serve many more residents and allow many more homes within several blocks of shops and transit,” and the “vision is for the Inner Eastside to achieve a more equitable version of the NW Alphabet District: a dynamic, walkable
neighborhood with a mix of mid-sized apartment buildings, single-family homes, and every type in-between, well-served by transit, and with commercial centers, corner stores, and shared neighborhood spaces.” Matt Tuckerbaum from Portland: Neighbors Welcome will be at our March meeting to tell us more about this proposed concept.

Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Tiffany Koyama Lane

During the pandemic, you may have seen Tiffany Koyama Lane, a third-grade teacher at Sunnyside Environmental School, collecting signatures for the Universal Preschool measure at Laurelhurst Park or at the entrance to Mount Tabor. Thanks in no small part to volunteers like Koyama Lane (who personally collected over 1,000 signatures), this became Preschool for All, a ballot initiative that Portlanders overwhelmingly voted for in 2020. It was during this period of canvassing and talking to hundreds of Portland parents and kids about the importance of free, universal early childhood education that Koyama Lane got the nickname “Teacher Tiffany.”  A lead external organizer for the Portland Association of Teachers, Koyama Lane is now putting her organizing and leadership skills to good use by running for Portland City Council, District 3.  She and her husband, novelist and stay-at-home dad Tim Lane, live in Sunnyside with their two kids.

Will you introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running for office?

Tiffany: My name is Tiffany Koyama Lane (she/her). I’m a teacher and a working mom. I have two kiddos—a six year old and an eight year old. I’m running for City Council because my community has been asking me to for many years. As a teacher, I interact with all different sorts of families and hold space for all of them and have to find solutions that consider all the kids and parents and caregivers. A public school really is a mirror for the neighborhood, for the city and for what’s happening.

In 2021, a group of houseless people set up an encampment at Sunnyside School after their camp was swept at Laurelhurst Park. This was during the pandemic, before kids returned to in-person school. Some parents expressed concerns about a camp so close to school property—they worried about needles getting left near the playground, drugs, and other safety issues.

Tiffany: My official stance would be that we need to have a robust shelter system with options for tiny house villages. Those need to be expanded because they’re working. We also need a unified housing list so when people are moving into housing, instead of one person applying to 20 different management companies, there’s more of a centralized and streamlined approach.

I also do want to say that I acknowledge that it’s a really intense presence to have a camp at a school, on a playground. The parents and the people who were concerned—they have a right to feel safe. I don’t think that that should be disregarded.

Were you concerned?

Tiffany: I wasn’t. But I also would go and talk to those neighbors and they were positive conversations. And even before—houseless folks have been there for a while—and some of those folks would look out for kids and de-escalate people. A lot of the relationships have been going on for a long time and are friendly. I don’t think those are highlighted enough.

How do you feel about Measure 110—should it be repealed? How can it be altered to make it work more effectively?

Tiffany: I do not want to repeal Measure 110. The implementation has not addressed the vast underlying conditions, namely, the holes in our treatment services and the huge barriers to access. Recriminalizing drugs would not change those underlying conditions—it is not a problem the city can or should arrest its way out of. Any changes made to the law need to be done in collaboration with people who have on-the-ground experience of addiction issues. The majority of police are not equipped to do social work.

Multnomah County is in charge of homeless services. But it’s the Portland Housing Bureau that’s tasked with building more housing. What should the City be doing that it isn’t right now?

Tiffany: I believe in workforce housing and making sure that people can live and work in the same place. I’m very fortunate. We need to make sure we aren’t losing important members of our community—essential workers, teachers, nurses—because they simply can’t afford to live here. There are examples like in Oakland, California where they’ve got workforce housing for teachers that I think we should be looking at.

The SNA plans to interview other City Council candidates for District 3 who live in Sunnyside over the coming months.

Critic’s Corner: Review of Rip City Remix, Portland’s G-league Basketball Team

Portland has a new minor league basketball team, Rip City Remix, part of the NBA’s G-league.  G-league is the level before the actual NBA. The Rip City Remix plays all kinds of teams. They played the Delaware Blue Coats, the Santa Cruz Warriors and even the Mexico City Capitanes. My opinion is that they’re so good that they should be part of the NBA! For example Antoine Davis, who plays for Rip City Remix, should be in the NBA. They’ve won. They’ve lost. Once they won with a three point shot. They once got a hundred points and all the kids got free ice cream! Also, on the side they have big screens (which mostly advertise soft drinks). It’s at the Chiles Center at the University of Portland. You can also fill out a form and get courtside seats! (Only if you win a contest.) You get a really good view too. After the games they also let you take pictures with the players. You should probably go!!

Want to see your name in print? We are looking for Sunnyside-based students to submit reviews of books, restaurants, food carts, movies or anything else that your fellow Sunnyside residents might enjoy knowing about. Please submit ideas to Hannah at [email protected].