Usually when I think of poetry as performance art it conjures up images of the Beatnik movement and I cringe away in fear. Recently I was introduced to Taylor Mali through on a WordPress blog and my preconceptions were completely thrown out the window. Taylor is a former high school teacher turned performance arts poet and teachers advocate. I have watched all of his YouTube videos that I can find and in the process explored a little deeper into the Poetry Slam movement and found some more awesome writers. This particular style of poetry is not pretty in the classic sense. It is gritty, blind, and as far removed from a Shakespearean sonnet as it is possible to be. This is not to say that the poems aren’t beautiful but it is a beauty grounded in reality.
Some of the poems like Mali’s “On Girls Lending Pens” had me giggling through most of it because I remember similar scenes from high school.“Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair” (by Jeanann Verlee) however had me, caught somewhere between cheers, laughter, and sympathetic sobbing all the way through. Despite this I think I’m trying to memorize it, exactly why I am not sure. Her poem “40 Love Letters” is somewhat lighter in tone but I now feel as though I would probably ask her at least 40 questions if I ever got the chance, such as “what in the world did Ethan ask or suggest that led to such a flat, emphatic no?
After scouring YouTube for videos of poetry read in this style I can only come to one conclusion it is a good thing that I do not have aspirations to become a poet, if I wrote poetry every day for the next 50 years it would never hold a candle to some of the works I have seen over the weekend.
Do NOT LISTEN TO WITH SMALL CHILDREN PRESENT (I wouldn’t anyway)
Also not with kids present
Taylor Mali’s silliness