Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who Is Taylor Mali?

He's this really cool poet. Former teacher. Current teacher's advocate. Slam host. Fantastic reader. Funny, too. And he's that rarest of rare things: a poet with an agent!

I probably should have stumbled upon Taylor long ago, but it was only months ago that I heard him read a poem on Linebreak, the innovative journal that sends a weekly poem and audio via email and then archives them all. (Go there and sign up for the weekly emails. The poems are consistently excellent as are the readings.) Taylor has one of those lovely deep voices that do such justice to a poem.

Then last week, while visiting Sherry Chandler's blog, I came across a wonderful video of Taylor reading a poem at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC. The poem, "I Could Be a Poet," is a satirical view of the phoniness that sometimes accompanies poets and poetry readings. There's our fondness for black, the little lilt at the end of the line, the hand gestures for audience members who don't understand plain words, the obligatory curse word, and the non-ending ending. Take a look at this. You'll love it.

I'm always impressed by poets who can recite by heart. This is a poet who clearly has a heart, a lot of it. Be sure to visit Taylor Mali's website. What a treasure chest you'll find there. This site is a double-must visit for teachers. Go to the page for Poem Videos and look at "Miracle Workers," Taylor's tribute to teachers. At that same page you will find an amazing library of 50 poetry videos. Teachers, if you have students who think they don't like poetry, send them to Taylor's site. If you yourself are uncomfortable with poetry, spend some time there. Go to the Workshops I Teach page where you'll find "A Baker’s Dozen Secrets of Slam: 13 Tips for Performing Poetry in Public." Good for all kinds of poetry, not just slam.

Now what I want is to attend a Taylor Mali reading. That's not an impossible dream as he's in NYC and I'm in New Jersey. At the website I opened the Mailing Lists page and found a state by state list. I then signed on to receive information about any readings he might be doing in my area. You can do the same thing.

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  1. He's even on Internet Movie Database. I just watched Mali's "What Teachers Make." I'm a teacher, so it hit home. Thanks for sharing your discovery here.

  2. I was introduced to Mali a few years ago, and purchased one of his books -- I like that he is a teacher advocate (when there's so much teacher bashing today). I loved "What Teachers Make"!

  3. He read at the CT poetry festival many years ago -- he's awesome.

  4. I love Taylor Mali! His work defies characterization. Call it poetry, slam, performance art, standup comedy, and that just limits it. He's a very gifted performer who should be a big name one of these days. For now, I'll just pass along a link to this on my blog and help build his audience in my small way. Thanks for this!

  5. I run open mics in the Princeton area and am a big believer in Spoken Word poetry. We go into schools and teach the kids that even the classics if read are a way to appreciate and understand what poetry means to our society. Thanks for posting him, and his site, he is great!

  6. Taylor's a great performer. When I was coordinator for the regional Poetry Out Loud contest here in NEPA we invited him in to inspire the kids who were going to participate in the contest. He was inspiring for both teachers and kids.


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