Poet, You Entrance Me!

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

I must confess, I have a new crush. He’s a poet. He used to be a teacher. Now, according to his website, he is a “vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching.” He was the Friday morning keynote speaker at the Write to Learn Conference in Missouri last weekend.

Several years ago a friend wrote on her blog that she was going to a club to see the poet Taylor Mali. I had no clue who that was. I looked him up and discovered the You Tube of him reciting “What Teachers Make.” I loved it! I was hooked, but did not explore his work any further. That one piece was enough to satisfy me, then.

When it was announced that Taylor Mali would be at the conference this year, I knew I wanted to go. Perhaps he’d do “What Teachers Make” for us, I thought. I was right, he did do that poem but oh, so much more!

He begins speaking. You think he’s chatting, but then all of a sudden you realize this is a poem. There’s beauty in that. Students need to hear him, to know that poetry doesn’t need to rhyme at the end of the line. Poetry allows your voice passion.

He read poems from the manuscript of his newest book of poetry. I will own that book. The book is titled Late Father. He said it refers to his late father but also he became a father late in life. He now has a toddler son. He spoke so quickly I could only grasp a few words at a time.

I jotted impressions as he spoke. The room, of over a thousand educators, sat silent as he pondered what poem would be next. Only an occasional cough could be heard during the few moments between pieces. His poems touched my heart, brought me to tears, and ignited a fire for his poetry.

A standing ovation of cheering educators ended the keynote that opened the conference. I turned to my friend, “What did you think?” I asked. “It was about thirty minutes too long for me,” she replied. “Really? I could have listened for another hour,” was my response.

Two people listened to the same talk. Two totally different responses. Something to think about.

Taylor Mali at Write to Learn conference 2016

Taylor Mali at Write to Learn conference 2016


31 thoughts on “Poet, You Entrance Me!

  1. I tried to comment on this in the morning but my battery was not on my side; I’ve never heard of Mali before this but I love your impassioned share on how his words have entranced you. The bit about Late Father “I will own that book” is funny in a way that is totally relatable.

  2. mrssurridge says:

    I haven’t heard of Taylor Mali, but I have heard of “What Teachers Make”–he is obviously a genius. So glad you enjoyed his talk. I will put him on my bucket list.

  3. I think that is one of the best parts of poetry – we all take (or not) something different from the poetry we read and hear. Though I’ve not heard Taylor, I have heard Kwame Alexander talk, but truly he’s speaking in verse. I am always mesmerized. So glad you had the opportunity to hear Taylor in person.

  4. I will have to look into his work, always looking for things to enjoy but more importantly I love how you took away a different perspective than your friend. I have wondered before how two people can hear the same things but have different reactions – maybe it’s your background knowledge.

  5. Thank you for introducing me to a new poet! Poetry has never been a strong point for me, both as a writer and as a teacher, so I look forward to checking this out. This could be exactly what I need to invigorate my poetry experiences!

  6. Bev Baird says:

    I haven’t heard of Mali, but I will definitely look him up. Poets really can move us so much. Always amazed at those who brush off something I feel strongly about – I just put it down to they are missing a lot. Thanks

  7. Taylor Mali came and talked at my high school way back when and performed a piece on the power of autocorrect/proofing your work- look it up for a good laugh. The ending is the best part 🙂

  8. I must admit I am intimidated by poetry. I love to listen to it but have no idea of the ‘rules’ on how to write it and how to teach it, but I want to. Elsie you are my go to girl for poetry because you love it so. Have you got any recommendations for poetry for beginners? 🙂

    • Here’s my first rule, don’t have any rules. I know nothing about formal poetry. Sometimes sentences are too cumbersome, that’s when I fall back on writing poetry.

  9. You and I are so similar! I totally have crushes on good writers, especially when I can see them live and learn from them. I loved your line “Poetry allows your voice passion.” This is so true! I hope to try out some poetry during this year’s SOL.

  10. I haven’t heard of your new crush, Taylor Mali. But since I love all things poetic, I must look him up and listen to some of his readings. Thanks for introducing him to me.

  11. Michelle Nero says:

    Wow – I can hear and feel your passion for poetry! I will have to do a little searching for this Taylor, poet extraordinaire! Sounds amazing and I’m pumped to try out a little poetry this month when it feels just right!

  12. I am always amazed at how poets convey so much is so few words. Choosing the right word to make a point is a skill I don’t possess. I will have to check out his you tube video.

  13. I’m always eager to read poems that stir an emotional response; so thank you for introducing me to Taylor Mali. I sometimes wonder how poets manage to read their work aloud in front of a crowd. It must be a vulnerable feeling!

  14. I have been having “crushes” on poets since grad school (SUNY Buffalo Lit Dept.) where I was surrounded by poetry and had my first exposure to poetry readings. I think poets can be sexy because they are so sensitive in ways that women can really appreciate. I haven’t heard of Taylor Mali but I will now certainly look him up. As I prepare for my own upcoming workshop on Teaching Poetry to English Language Learners, I am thinking of starting my session with a shared oral reading to get my participants involved in “the spoken word.” I enjoyed your commenters today who had such interesting things to say about poetry which I will also quote in my workshop. Poetry rocks!

  15. Lynn says:

    That’s what a “poet crush” will do Elsie! Sounds amazing I have to look him up! Also, too funny, my nephew is moving to Irvine since he works there as well . . . small world huh!

  16. Judy C. says:

    It’s interesting how two people can read, hear or see something and come up with something totally different. I’ll have to check him out on You Tube. What a great experience for you!

  17. What a treat! That book is on my “list of wants”! Poetry gives a different voice to many students and it’s so critical for ALL students to have those choices and options!

  18. I had a feeling he would make it into a blog post of yours. 😉 I thought his poetry thing in NYC sounded neat where the spoken poet and the written poet went back and forth. You should make plans to check that out on a vacation sometime. Of course, your hubbie might be jealous to find you have a crush!

  19. What a treat to see Talyor Mali! I’ve listened to him, but I wasn’t aware of the book. I agree, students need to hear poetry. “Poetry allows your voice passion.”

  20. I love Taylor Mali too, Elsie. I have been using on clip that he does whenever I speak to teachers about persuasive writing. I am excited about doing this challenge again. Hope to interact with you much in the next month and months ahead.

  21. lynnedorfman says:

    I love poetry and will certainly look for Taylor’s new book. Elsie, I think we met two years ago at the Write to Learn Conference at Osage Beach. Am I right about this? I am part of SOL for the first time. Reading your post took me back to that conference – a totally great experience!

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