Monday, 28 June 2010

A Master Word-Smith and Rhetorician: I Give You Taylor Mali

I love language. This is a statement which may well seem superfluous from somebody whose appreciation of narrative is fairly well documented; taking it as a given fact that narrative depends upon language of one form and another – and more specifically in its original sense depending upon spoken or written language. So, I love language, and that love also opens up to poetry, which admittedly may or may not be narrative in nature (just as narratives, of course, may be poetic in nature too; so there is the possibility for a nigh endless recursion right there).

So why this rather odd opening statement, you may ask yourselves, gentle readers. Well, I have recently become somewhat enamoured (in a very Platonic manner; albeit, to some degree admittedly textual) with teacher, poet and spoken word artist Taylor Mali. These warm feelings are rooted in an admiration for Mali's uncanny mastery of the English language, and not just in terms of choosing the right words to get his message across (like any good word-smith and rhetorician should), but in his delicate and pitch-perfect delivery when performing his work.

For instance, consider the following performance of "Totally like Whatever, You Know" (from Mali's poetry collection What Learning Leaves):

While the poem in and of itself is a well formulated reflection on a trend in language usage, Mali's performance stresses this trend even further by mimicking it, giving it a voice that becomes at once humorous, satirical and utterly serious. Or put differently, when Mali finally speaks of speaking with conviction, he speaks with conviction.

Another one of Mali's strong pieces, both in terms of written poems and spoken word performances (not that I have thus far read or heard one that could honestly be considered weak), is "The The Impotence of Proofreading" (also from What Learning Leaves). Here Mali once again flexes his verbal muscles and delivers something wittily funny yet simultaneously very serious: i.e. the importance of language, of knowing your language, and of controlling your language. Incidentally, this was my own introduction to Mali's work, and, to coin a phrase, he had me at "very, very hoard."

For more Taylor Mali, check out his YouTube channel or his latest collection of poetry, The Last Time as We Are.

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