Taylor Mali

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Taylor Mali
Taylor Mali in 2005
Taylor Mali in 2005
BornTaylor McDowell Mali
(1965-03-28) March 28, 1965 (age 56)
New York City, New York, United States
OccupationPoet, humorist, teacher, voice actor
EducationCollegiate School
Alma materBowdoin College
Kansas State University
Literary movementSlam Poetry
Notable works"What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World," What Learning Leaves
SpouseRachel Kahan

Taylor McDowell Mali (born March 28, 1965) is an American slam poet, humorist, teacher, and voiceover artist.[1][2][3]


Mali's 4th grade photo in the 1975 Collegiate yearbook

A 12th-generation native of New York City,[citation needed] Taylor Mali graduated from the Collegiate School, a private school for boys, in 1983. He received a B.A. in English from Bowdoin College in 1987 and an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Kansas State University in 1993. One of four children, his mother was children's book author Jane L. Mali,[4] a recipient of the American Book Award, and his father was H. Allen Mali, vice president of Henry W.T. Mali & Co., manufacturers of pool table coverings. He is the great-great-grandson of John Taylor Johnston, founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has married three times. His first wife was Rebecca Ruth Tauber (married in 1993; she died in 2004) and his second wife was Marie-Elizabeth Mundheim (married in 2006;[5] they divorced in 2012[6]). On August 11, 2013, Mali married Rachel Kahan.[7] On January 2, 2015, he became a father to a baby boy, and in 2017 a baby girl.[8]

On January 7, 2021, the New York Times wrote about his mission to retrieve plastic bags trapped in tree branches around his Brooklyn neighborhood, using a metal painters pole with a 21-foot extension, and comparing him to Don Quixote.[9]


Taylor Mali performing at the international school in Stockholm

As a slam poetry performer, Taylor Mali has been on seven National Poetry Slam teams; six appeared on the finals stage and four won the competition (1996 with Team Providence; 1997, 2000 and 2002 with Team NYC-Urbana). Mali is the author of What Learning Leaves and the Last Time as We Are (Write Bloody Publishing), has recorded four CDs, and is included in various anthologies. Poets who have influenced him include Billy Collins, Saul Williams, Walt Whitman, Rives, Mary Oliver, and Naomi Shihab Nye. He is perhaps best known for the poem "What Teachers Make." The popular poem became the basis of a book of essays, titled, "What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World" which was published in 2012 by Putnam Adult.[10]

He appeared in Taylor Mali & Friends Live at the Bowery Poetry Club and the documentaries "SlamNation" (1997) and "Slam Planet" (2006). He was also in the HBO production, "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry," which won a Peabody Award in 2003. Taylor Mali is the former president of Poetry Slam Incorporated, and he has performed with such renowned poets as Billy Collins and Allen Ginsberg. Although he retired from the National Poetry Slam competition in 2005,[11] he still helps curate the reading series Page Meets Stage, held monthly at the Bowery Poetry Club. His chapbook, The Whetting Stone, won the Rattle Chapbook Prize for 2017.


Taylor Mali spent nine years teaching English, history, and math, including stints at Browning School, a boys' school on the Upper East Side of New York City, and Cape Cod Academy, a K-12 private school on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He now lectures and conducts workshops for teachers and students all over the world. In 2001 Taylor Mali used a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts to develop the one-man show "Teacher! Teacher!" about poetry, teaching, and math. He is a strong advocate for the nobility of teaching and in 2000 he set out to create 1,000 new teachers through "poetry, persuasion, perseverance, or passion." He finally reached the mark on April 1, 2012.[12]

Published works[edit]


  • What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World, 2012 - ISBN 978-0399158544
  • The Last Time As We Are, 2009 - ISBN 978-0982148839
  • What Learning Leaves, 2002 - ISBN 1-887012-17-6
  • The Whetting Stone, 2017 - ISBN 978-1931307345

Audio CDs[edit]

  • Icarus Airlines, 2007
  • Conviction, 2003
  • Poems from the Like Free Zone, 2000
  • The Difference Between Left & Wrong, 1995


Collections in which Taylor Mali's work is included

CD Anthologies[edit]

Collections in which Taylor Mali's work is included

  • Attack of the Urbanabots (The Wordsmith Press, 2007)
  • New High Score (The Wordsmith Press, 2004)
  • Writers Week IX (WWIX, 2004)
  • Best of Urbana 2003 (The Wordsmith Press, 2003)
  • The Kerfuffle Incident: Best of the Kalamazoo Poetry Slam (KPS, 2003)
  • Urbana: Bowery Poetry Club (The Wordsmith Press, 2002)
  • Freedom to Speak Anthology(CD) (The Wordsmith Press, 2002)
  • Spoken Word Underground (The Wordsmith Press, 2001)
  • NYC Slams (Anthology) (PoetCD, 2000)


  • American Fairy Tales, audiobook, 1998
  • Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, audiobook, 2000
  • Hope Along the Wind: The Story of Harry Hay, documentary, 2002
  • Blizzard!, audiobook, 2003
  • The Great Fire, audiobook, 2003
  • Revenge of the Whale, audiobook, 2005
  • ESCAPE! The Story of the Great Houdini, audiobook, 2006
  • Close To Shore, audiobook, 2007


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Review of The Great Fire[permanent dead link], AudioFile Magazine, Jun/Jul 2003
  2. ^ Slam Poet's Muse is Teaching, Stacey Hollenbeck, Teacher Magazine, July 18, 2007
  3. ^ Day Job: Teacher, Night Job: Poet, Instructor, Sep/Oct 2007, Vol. 117 Issue 2, p. 9
  4. ^ Obituary: Jane L. Mali, New York Times, October 7, 1995.
  5. ^ Vows: Marie-Elizabeth Mundheim and Taylor Mali, New York Times, May 28, 2006.
  6. ^ Marie Elizabeth Mali FB blog concerning divorce
  7. ^ https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=504795366272571&set=a.119417461477032.30524.115899398495505&type=1&theater
  8. ^ https://www.facebook.com/TaylorMaliPoet/photos/a.119417461477032.30524.115899398495505/760468814038557/?type=1
  9. ^ "The Don Quixote of Brooklyn, Tilting at Plastic Bags". 7 January 2021.
  10. ^ Penguin Official Site: "What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World"
  11. ^ Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008) Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. "Taylor Mali: The Man, The Myth, The Industry" page 266. Soft Skull Press, 288. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  12. ^ The Quest for 1,000 New Teachers Archived 2009-02-03 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]

YouTube videos[edit]

Mali posts videos on his channel at YouTube of his own and other performances: