Campus News

Bowdoin Grad Returns as Slam Poetry Film Star

Story posted January 15, 1999

Jan. 25, 1999, BRUNSWICK, Maine -- Taylor Mali '87, a.k.a. The Hot T. Mali, is returning to Brunswick Jan. 29 for a screening of the 1998 documentary movie "SlamNation," which features him as a national poetry slam champion. Mali will give a special performance on campus at Jack Magee's Pub at 10 p.m. Jan. 30, following the second showing of the movie at the Eveningstar Cinema in the Tontine Mall. Tickets are $8 and may be purchased in advance at the cinema or by calling 729-6796.

"SlamNation" explores the "sport of the spoken word" with an inside look at the drama, strategy, hard-edged competition and humor of the 1996 National Poetry Slam. "SlamNation" exposes the raw energy and sheer talent of some of the greatest performance poets in the country, and provides a good old-fashioned tale of heroes and villains amid the dramatic tension of fiery competition. Stephen Holden of the The New York Times describes it as "verbally akin to stripping naked"

Many consider Mali to be the "villain" of the film. Ken Marks, a New Yorker magazine critic calls Mali "particularly entertaining, a loudmouthed ironist out for the poetic kill."

After graduating from Bowdoin, Mali studied with members of the Royal Shakespeare Academy at Oxford before earning a master's degree in English literature. He says he abandoned the theater and chose to pursue a career in poetry "because that's where the real money is." During graduate school, Mali started competing in poetry slams, which are raucous, competitive readings where accessibility and entertainment invariably win out over more traditionally dense and textured verse. The year after the Portland Nationals, Mali led Team Mouth Almighty to victory at the 1997 National Poetry Slam.

Mali has published one book -- The Rest of the Best Words - and one cassette of his spoken word performances, "The Difference Between Left and Wrong." A collection of his poems about teaching will be published by Hanover Street Press in the Spring of 1999. He lives in New York City with his wife, where he teaches math and history at The Browning School, and does voiceovers for Burger King.

Mali will introduce "SlamNation" at the Eveningstar Cinema at 6:20 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29 and 30. Following the film, he will answer questions from the audience. At 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, he will provide a free performance at Jack Magee's Pub in Smith Union.

Mali's visit is sponsored by the Bowdoin College Office of Alumni Relations. For more information, call 725-3411.

What the critics say about "SlamNation":

"Frenetically high-powered... make(s) poetry sexy again in a way it hasn't been since the heyday of the Beats. "SlamNation" could one day be viewed as the genre's answer to Monterey Pop." - Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"As colorful and chock-full of characters as any pro wrestling match, as peppered with strategy and finesse as Wimbledon ... There's heat, humor, and outrage onstage. It captures the feverishness and the artistry of this national championship with humor and clarity." - Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe

"An extraordinarily vivid portrait of the surprisingly cutthroat world of spoken-word... The trade-off between art and self-advantage has seldom been rendered on screen with such assured ferocity. Adheres to the finest traditions of the storyteller's art. See it!" --Steve Schneider, Orlando Weekly

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