Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Taylor Mali”

There is no rhyme nor reason to poetry…


at least according to some of my freshmen.  I can understand their point. Who wants to study grammatically incorrect phrasings and try to make sense of what they are talking about when you are doing all you can at trying to get a handle on whether it’s “A” day or “B” day and what lunch you have (“ummm, first lunch on “A” day or was that “B” day?). But we’ve made a commitment to Common Core and it’s full speed ahead.

Cover of "Dead Poets Society"

Cover of Dead Poets Society

Actually, I’ve always been a proponent of poetry.  I’ve brought cowboy poets into the classroom, Beatle songs, clips of Robin Williams doing his crazy wonderful teacher in Dead Poets Society, and provided recipes for poems.  I had football players writing love poems and entering contests, mud boggers writing sonnets about their trucks. We’ve explored performance poetry through Taylor Mali’s incredible YouTube videos and we’ve participated in a packed-out community program of youth performing their own poetry.

Common Core though, I’ve noticed, has dented my zing. I’ve been having students prepare for their SBAC (I should know what that means) by writing up reaction paragraphs to each poem as a means of them practicing their critical thinking skills. There is nothing wrong with understanding and recognizing how, or what, or why the poem works, yet poetry is so different from prose. It should encourage the soul to sing. I’m afraid in my zeal for my students to do well on their tests by getting their writing skills up to stuff I’ve lost my way towards my original goal of greeting me with “What’s the poem today?” with that anticipation of a new flavor to relish.

Hmm, some Walt  Whitman and Song of Myself might do it…

Cover of "Song of Myself (Shambhala Centa...

Cover via Amazon

Spoken Poetry


Poetry is an...

Poetry is an… (Photo credit: liber(the poet);)

Have you ever attended a Poetry Slam?  This  is where poetry gets to break out of its stuffy stereotypical silently read and reflected mode.  A Poetry Slam is where poets perform their poetry.  Recitation is accompanied by dramatics and the audience gets in on the action through rating the performance.  It’s amazing.  It will forever change your opinion that poetry can only be recited in dull monotones from a podium in front of barely stirring, half-asleep listeners.

One of my favorite Spoken Poetry artists is Taylor Mali. Not only was he formerly a teacher, he is one of the few poets who is actually making a living as a poet.  Go to his website or type in his name on YouTube for any number of his videos.  Much of his poetry deals with his experiences, opinions, and outlook as a teacher.  I can definitely relate to the subject matter–yet, his words reach to a wider audience as well.

His most repeated poem is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuBmSbiVXo0

We held a poetry slam at our local library a few years ago.  One of my students performed her work and left the audience, mainly middle-schoolers with a smattering of high schoolers, cheering and clapping.  She was supposed to go on the regionals and couldn’t due to her age (16). Who would have thought talent could be hemmed in by being too young?

Check out Poetry Slams and next time someone says poetry is boring you can plug in a Taylor Mali and then ask for their revised opinion.

Happy Poetry Month!

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