Definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful
July 15, 2007 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Taylor Mali is great. I've seen his poems performed many times in high school forensic competition (that's speech and debate, not dead bodies) and the kids really get into his message. I especially liked seeing him perform "The Impotence of Proofreading." Thanks for the post!
posted by chihiro at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2007

Love it! Saw him do "What teachers make" on Def Poetry a few years ago and it was probably the best performance I ever saw on that show (granted, the show was always a very mixed bag).

Going to start showing "The The Impotence of Proofreading" to my freshman comp classes.
posted by papakwanz at 1:13 PM on July 15, 2007

That first video gave me chills.

And, yes, proofreading is very important. A few summers ago, I was teaching reading at USF in Tampa and saw a flyer for a party that said, "Drinks, Dancing, Raping."

Please, kids, remember to double that ending consonant or no one will show up to your party.
posted by inconsequentialist at 1:14 PM on July 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

...remember to double that ending consonant or no one will show up to your party.

Your view of humanity must be a lot more optimistic than mine. That party would be packed.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:17 PM on July 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe only funny to people who've heard lots of slam poetry: How to Write a Political Poem
posted by roll truck roll at 1:19 PM on July 15, 2007

Awsome! Also I just lost my comma not that I knew how to use it..
posted by Chuckles at 1:20 PM on July 15, 2007

Heh, there's a typo at the last link ("worskshops").
posted by gubo at 1:24 PM on July 15, 2007

It's not a typo, it's an easter egg.

copy-pasted. I would have used [small] but < is broken too..
posted by Chuckles at 1:32 PM on July 15, 2007

Slam poets sure like caking on the irony. He seems to do it well, though.
posted by spiderskull at 1:38 PM on July 15, 2007

roll truck roll: Thanks for that video! Someone had told me about that one before, glad to finally find it.
posted by papakwanz at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2007

Superb. Thanks.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:15 PM on July 15, 2007

I think we're all missing the key fact--as a teacher, he earns very little money. This makes him an intrinsically bad person.

Remember, kids: if you're not making at least 85k a year, you don't exist.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:34 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Good stuff--it sure is nice to see someone making sense, and speaking with passion. I didn't know his work, thanks for the post!
posted by LooseFilter at 2:47 PM on July 15, 2007

Holy fuck that guy rocks!
posted by Drexen at 3:47 PM on July 15, 2007

Thank you, this is a great post! (Yes, that was written with conviction.)
posted by snsranch at 4:09 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think I'm in love.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:13 PM on July 15, 2007

Happiness is a successful FPP. Glad you guys liked it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:25 PM on July 15, 2007

I used to think the teacher's union was great, until the reason my borderline child could not get special ed was because the teachers pushed back so hard about having to do the extra work that the district decided to get far more restrictive than all the neighboring districts. I thought, at first, no, this can not really be the case. Those other parents are just complainers. Then I heard it from not one, but nearly a half dozen teachers. The NEA and the NJEA can go suck eggs. They care about themselves first, kids second. I understand the plight of teachers, but their unions are to be broken and I will always vote against their interests.
posted by caddis at 4:43 PM on July 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thank you very much for this post.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:55 PM on July 15, 2007

That was an excellent introduction to his stuff, thanks! I'm thinking about a career change into teaching and that was inspiring.
posted by pywacket at 4:56 PM on July 15, 2007

This guy has got some great lines, but I just can't get past that archetypal slam delivery. That set of phrasing, rhythms and gestures is just so stilted and done to death. It's like every slam poet is just aping the mannerisms of one holy beatnik proto-slammer. Going to a slam and hearing everyone deliver their poems exactly the same way makes it hard to appreciate the creativity of what they're saying.

It's such a cool form of expression... I just don't understand why they have to be like cantors, endlessly spinning out the same ancient tropes over and over again just because someone influential did it that way long ago.
posted by ulotrichous at 5:01 PM on July 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Here's the animated version of "what teachers make".
posted by about_time at 5:06 PM on July 15, 2007

Why, oh why, won't YouTube links just frickin' work when I click on 'em here in the blue?

That was amazing. I grieve anew that I got talked out becoming a teacher. And I've managed never to know anything about this Mali guy until now, a shortcoming I'm eager to rectify.
posted by pax digita at 5:10 PM on July 15, 2007

pywacket, be sure to click on the "1000 Teachers" link on his web site.
posted by winston at 5:21 PM on July 15, 2007

He was in the documentary SlamNation in 1998 with, among others muMs da Schemer from Oz.
posted by i love cheese at 5:51 PM on July 15, 2007

Nifty homepage. Anagrams! Animation!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:25 PM on July 15, 2007


That's not a typo. He's quoting Popeye.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:53 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I always wanted to be a teacher. But those effing blow-hards in my jr. college just blew it for me. They were just assholes and I didn't have it in me to hang in there.

I get my "teaching" fix vicariously through my wife, and by volunteering at her school.

I do believe in public education.

(this is teacher wife, Mrs. snsranch, writing now...)

My school is living proof that it works. Privatization? NO. Unions? They support me, so there it is.

Should teachers be paid more? I say NO! Teachers do not want to get paid more. It is NOT about money. If you ask a teacher and they disagree, then they are in it for the wrong reason.

Is there a "culture of complaining" within the education community? It depends on the community. Find a quality public school (and there are many) and you will find positive, optimistic people.

If they are complaning, they SUCK.

Most people will find this post incredulous. Pessimism abounds. Thank God I have a supportive husband. He hears all of my stories from school and tells me what a great job I am doing with kids.

After all, it is all about the fucking KIDS!!!
posted by snsranch at 7:19 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Most people will find this post incredulous.

Repeated for emphasis and errata. Will you people please take your arguments about unions and merit pay to metatalk? This is poetry, damn it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:46 PM on July 15, 2007

I really enjoyed this, thanks. Never heard of the guy, but found these bits inspiring.
posted by sharpener at 8:49 PM on July 15, 2007

Someone I know very well went to grad school with Mali. He taught for a few years at a private school then quit to be a "poet". The "difference" he made was for prep school kids who were going to have a great education anyway. He is a trust fund baby who never worked hard in his life, but like all great academic dilettantes, has learned to champion the underclasses for authenticity. He writes glurge/spam-like poems that look more like something from Reader's Digest than anything resembling literature. He takes grants that others could use (you know, actual starving artists) for his work. The grand teaching opus and "The Impotence of Proofreading" were written in grad school years ago, he still flogs those like a dead horse.

Sorry to harsh the mellow here, but his schtick and shit sucks. Hack, with a capital "h" and a lot of phlegm.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:57 PM on July 15, 2007 [4 favorites]

Should teachers be paid more? I say NO! Teachers do not want to get paid more. It is NOT about money. If you ask a teacher and they disagree, then they are in it for the wrong reason.

I'm an eleven-year veteran teacher, and (I daresay) a motherfucking excellent one. I would love to make enough money to live in a non-shitty part of LA as a single man without roommates (my neighborhood is amazing, but I do have roomies and there's no way I could live in Los Feliz on my own and not live a monastic existence), save a bit of money, and not drive a thirteen year-old car. Not every teacher is married and has the benefit of another income coming into the household.

There are a ton of intrinsic rewards in teaching, and I think society uses those rewards as a philosophical justification for not paying teachers more. Fuck that. Healing people is intrinsically rewarding as well (after all, it's about the patients, right?), but no one would ever dare suggest that doctors shouldn't be paid a lot of money because of it. I certainly wouldn't.

Sorry if this is combative. But when you look at your salary as a single person and know that you'll never be able to afford to buy property in the city you've chosen as your home... when you've seen your insurance benefits get noticably degraded over time... when you teach in an affluent school district at a Blue Ribbon school, and your union still has to fight tooth-and-nail to get step increases funded... I think one has the right to occasionally complain without being told that they suck at their profession. Because trust me, I don't.
posted by the_bone at 9:07 PM on July 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Sorry to harsh the mellow here

Seriously, that was pretty harsh. I wondered that all his teaching shots were of him in front of white kids, though. The poem plays with the idea that the poet is the teacher depicted, but I guess it doesn't require that fact. It still works (for me) as Hallmark inspiration, which I kind of enjoy sometimes. Just don't give it grants.

It should be noted that his ironic critiques of slam poetry, especially the faux-deep and outrage stuff, is quite above par, regardless of the personality of the author. "How to Write a Political Poem" and "I Could be a Poet" both do a good job eviscerating the common tropes and asking for a new direction in that genre.

Forgetting the teaching thing for a second, I like this one/ It does what poetry is really supposed to do, which is to put language on display rather than allowing it to secretly shape our world.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:21 PM on July 15, 2007

but like all great academic dilettantes, has learned to champion the underclasses for authenticity.
He takes grants that others could use (you know, actual starving artists) for his work.

That's a little ironic.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:33 PM on July 15, 2007

Mali is an interesting figure in the slam poetry world. I think he's now "retired," though that may have changed. It's alluded to a little bit in Slam Nation, but he's much more calculated than most slam poets. Most poets (and I'm generalizing a lot here) are in it for the poetry. This is enhanced by the fact that each competition in a standard slam is judged by "schmos," 5 people pulled at random from the audience. Mali is calculated; he keeps stats on who competes in what order and what poems they perform. He's in these to WIN.

He has some good poems, but I prefer a number of other poets.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:58 AM on July 16, 2007

Mali still competes, but just not as well as he used to...*delightfully awaiting Slam Nationals the first week of August in Austin, TX* be there or be oh so square-ish.
posted by psylosyren at 2:22 PM on July 16, 2007

sleepy pete, please, by all means, harsh the mellow. If what you're saying is true, and I have NO reason to doubt you, then thanks for the info. I still have to applaud the guy for talking about teachers and language etc.

Where the hell is languagehat? I wanna hear his take on this.

the_bone! Man, you have my sympathy and support. Thank you for, even though you are NOT paid enough, being a teacher! I just shared your comment with Mrs. SNS and she concedes. On her behalf, I have to say that she works in one of the most economically depressed neighborhoods in our region and as a result she is fueled mostly by enthusiasm and all of the "intrinsic rewards" you mentioned. Kudos to you. HIGHER PAY FOR TEACHERS DAMMIT!!!
posted by snsranch at 5:12 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

snsranch: No hard feelings. I'm overly touchy about this, and was probably overly dickish as well. Please pass my apologies onto your wife.

I taught in underserved areas for years (back when I lived in Miami). It's a tough gig, and so many of my colleagues were either burnt out and going through the motions, or rapidly on their way there. Given that your wife possibly has a similar situation as far as coworkers are concerned, I can understand her comments a little better now. And anyone who is able to maintain that level of enthusiasm for the kids/love for the job is undoubtedly a rockstar educator.

and don't cry for me, argentina: i'll admit that i have a dream job in many--hell, most--ways. i miss teaching in inner-city schools, but i'm in a situation now where i pretty much get whatever i ask for in the classroom, thanks to an obscenely well-funded pta. i get pretty freaked out when i balance my checkbook, but then again no one twisted my arm and forced me to move to los angeles (with its high cost of living) either.
posted by the_bone at 11:31 PM on July 16, 2007

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