Taylor Mali

Acclaimed Performance Poet
Education Advocate
Author of What Teachers Make

 

"To watch Mali is to watch a full-body poetic assault—with humor his central weapon." —The Portland Phoenix

 

"Taylor Mali is a ranting comic showman and literary provocateur." —The New York Times

 

Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement. He is one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of "poet." Articulate, accessible, passionate, and downright funny, Mali studied drama in Oxford with members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and puts those skills of presentation to work in all his performances. He was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry and was the "Armani-clad villain" of Paul Devlin's 1997 documentary film SlamNation. His poem “What Teachers Make” has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube and was quoted by the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman in one of his commencement addresses.

Mali is vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world; and in 2012 he reached his goal of creating one thousand new teachers through "poetry, persuasion, and perseverance." Based on the poem that inspired a movement, his book of essays, What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World, is his passionate defense of teachers drawing on his own experiences, both in the classroom and as a traveling poet. Mali is a highly sought-after keynote speaker.

Born in New York City into a family whose members have lived there since the early 1600s, Taylor Mali is an unapologetic WASP, making him a rare entity in spoken word, which is often considered to be an art form influenced by the inner city and dominated either by poets of color or otherwise imbued with the spirit of hip-hop. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books, 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover, 2002), and four CDs of spoken word.

Mali received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop "Teacher! Teacher!" a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 U. S. Comedy Arts Festival. Formerly president of Poetry Slam Incorporated, the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America, Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops as well as doing occasional commercial voiceover work. He has narrated several books on tape, including "The Great Fire" (for which he won the Golden Earphones Award for children's narration).

About WHAT TEACHERS MAKE (Nonfiction, 2012)

"The author’s slim, appealing book delivers a powerfully positive message, but it’s also a valentine to teachers everywhere.... Big, bright life lessons in a pocket-sized package." —Kirkus


The right book at the right time: an impassioned defense of teachers and why our society needs them now more than ever. Former middle-school teacher and teachers' advocate, Taylor Mali struck a chord with his passionate response to a man at a dinner party who asked him what kind of salary teachers make—a poetic rant that has been seen and forwarded millions of times on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Based on the poem that inspired a movement, What Teachers Make is Mali's sharp, funny, reflective, critical call to arms about the joys of teaching and why teachers are so vital to America today. It's a book that will be treasured and shared by every teacher in America—and everyone who's ever loved or learned from one.

About THE LAST TIME AS WE ARE (Poetry, 2009)
Taylor Mali captures in his irresistible persona and highly engaging poetry the experience of the independent school teacher that he once was: part inspiration, part nag, part coach and friend, part disciplinarian. Kids love him and his poetry...and so do adults, a combination of approbation that is unusual in today's world.

Taylor Mali Poetry Blog

Taylor Mali website