Indiana State University Newsroom

Taylor Mali, nationally known slam poet, coming to ISU

September 16, 2009

Taylor Mali, who has won the National Poetry Slam four times, will perform at Indiana State University in conjunction with the department of criminology and criminal justice's first International Crime, Media and Popular Culture Studies Conference.

Mali's "No Holds Bard" performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in University Hall Theater. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased through ISU's Hulman Center Ticket Office or through Ticketmaster.

Mali speaking at the conference emphasizes its cross-disciplinary nature and the need to study the media and pop culture's role in understanding the various aspects of crime, deviance, justice and the justice system, said Frank Wilson, Indiana State assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice and chair of the International Crime, Media and Popular Culture Studies Conference.

"Taylor Mali represents one aspect of how popular culture plays a role in impacting not only students but academia as a whole," Wilson said. "Being a former teacher, Taylor realizes that in order to inspire this and future generations of students, you have to understand where they are coming from. Yes, Taylor Mali is a poet, comedian and entertainer, but when it all comes down to it, he is a teacher."

In addition to his record number of wins on National Poetry Slam, Mali also was one of the original poets on HBO's Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry. He is the curator of the Page Meets Stage series, which is held at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. His one-man show "Teacher! Teacher!" won the jury prize for best solo performance at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in 2002. He appeared in Paul Devlin's documentary film "SlamNation," which chronicled the National Poetry Slam Championship of 1996. A YouTube video of his performance of "What Teachers Make" has been viewed almost one million times and has been declared the most forwarded poem in the world.

As a 10th generation New Yorker with a master of arts in English, Mali spent nine years in a classroom.

"There is a poetry in numbers unlike any that can be found in words," he said.

His passion for teaching is one that he wants to pass along to others.

"I want to reform education in America from top to bottom," he said. "I want to be the individual responsible for making an entire generation of college graduates consider teacher before business or law school. I want to get America ready for an education tax if that's what it's going to take. But most of all, I want to be the spokesman for teaching's nobility, the poet laureate of passion in the classroom."

Since 2000, Mali has made a living as a poet, traveling the world reciting, reading and teaching about poetry.

Tickets for Mali's Oct. 6 performance are available through the Hulman Center Ticket office, at or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

The conference, which is scheduled from Oct. 5-7, seeks to encourage an international cross-disciplinary exchange between both academic scholars and practitioners who are engaged in research, teaching and practices associated with crime, media and popular culture. More than 100 attendees from nine countries are expected to attend the conference.

"This conference and the department of criminology and criminal justice at Indiana State represent a movement to further this area of study in the field of criminology," Wilson said.

While the conference is closed to the public, there are several activities, including Mali's performance, that week that will be open.

Brian Burroughs, author of "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the F.B.I. 1933-1934," will be speaking at 7 p.m. Oct. 5. The presentation is free as part of Indiana State's Speakers Series.

There also will be performances of ISU alum Stephen Belber's play "Tape" at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 2, 3, 6, and 7. Tickets, which are $7 for general admission and free for students, may be obtained by calling 812-237-3333.

Belber, who also will be leading a conference session, wrote "Tape," which was directed by Richard Linklater and starred Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. He also wrote and directed his first feature, "Management," starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn and Woody Harrelson, which premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival and was released nationwide in May 2009. Among other projects, he is currently developing a screenplay based on "McReele," for Will Smith's Overbrook production company. His TV credits include "Rescue Me" and "Law & Order SVU."

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or


Cutline: Taylor Mali/Courtesy photo