In which we ask the same questions Teen magazine asked then-soon-to-be-pregnant teen idol Jamie Lynn Spears; see original interview here.
Taylor Mali makes his living as a poet. Which makes Taylor Mali one of a kind.
A native New Yorker turned high school teacher, Mali joined the poetry slam movement in the mid-90s, and immediately made his mark as a pioneer in slam strategy. He led six of his seven National Poetry Slam teams to the finals stage, winning the championship a record four times. One of the original poets to appear on the HBO's Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, you might also remember him as the "golden-tongued, Armani-clad villain" of Paul Devlin's 1997 documentary film SlamNation, which chronicled the 1996 National Poetry Slam. Taylor also runs the very popular Page Meets Stage reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club.
What also makes Taylor Mali one of a kind: Everywhere he reads and performs, everywhere he talks about his life in the classroom, he recruits others to join the noble profession of teaching. "I want to be part of the movement that makes an entire generation of college graduates consider teaching before business or law school," he says. He's going for 1,000 new teachers; see his mission page here.
Pretty heady stuff. Which is exactly why we decided to get in touch with Mali and ask him these Really Important Questions.
BAPB: You’re in Jr. High, right?
TM: What are you talking about? I’m forty-freaking-three! Did you even prepare or this interview?
What are you most looking forward to?
No reaction to what I just said? Great. I feel like I’m doing an interview with Teen Magazine. What am I looking forward to? Either an intelligent and informed question or else the end of this interview.
What kind of car do you want?
Anything I could use to run you over with at this very moment.
What's your favorite subject?
Modern Media Murder.
Are kids in school treating you differently because of Nickelodeon exposure?
Dear Lord, now I’m beginning to wish you would kill me. Make it quick, okay?
You have a new puppy named Ali, right? How is she?
No, but I do have a cat named Jamie, and she’s almost 12 years old now.
How old is she now?
What did I just say? Are you even listening to a word I say? I have a cat named Jamie who is almost 12 years old. She is a mix of Siamese and Russian Blue. Anything else you want to know about my cat?
She's a mix, right?
Is you last name Palin?
What are your feelings about Ali?
I believe Cassius Clay was a cooler name.
Where did you find her?
Why do I think the next question you’re going to ask is whether or not I dress her up in little outfits and shit?
Taylor Mali reads "the the impotence of proofreading." And yes, that's Billy Collins to his left.
Do you dress her up?
Are you freaking kidding me? Are you FREAKING kidding me?!.
Do you try to coordinate it with what you're wearing?
Is that actually a question? You cannot be serious. Is that seriously a question?! This is ridiculous. Why am I even here? This interview is over! I don’t have time for this. I am a poet. I make my living as a poet, which is not an easy accomplishment in this day and age. So if you’re not going to ask me questions that have to do with me and my life, then I’m sorry to say that this interview is over. Hello? Is anyone listening to me? Fine! You want to play this game? Fine. Do I try to coordinate what my cat wears with what I wear? Let’s see, how about . . . No.
What is your fashion style?
It’s not going to stop, is it? I have to answer your freaking questions until you run out of questions, don’t I? Okay. My fashion style is pretty boring. Call it Gap Urban Hippy.
I suppose so.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to write and read poetry. Then I travel the world reciting that poetry and the poetry of others and teaching people how to write poetry. I have been doing this for the entire time that George W. Bush was President of the United States.
Was it really scary?
You have no idea. Apparently.
TV anything you watch?
That’s not even grammatically correct.
Are you watching Joey?
I assume that’s a TV show and not a person I can see through my window, right? Not at the moment. To answer the question I think you were trying to ask: No, I don’t watch a lot of TV because I’m not home a lot of the time.
So, you have to get TiVo?
What? No! That’s not the solution I was looking for. I don’t particularly enjoy TV. I’m sorry if that’s sacrilegious to you, but that’s how I honestly feel. I’m not playing the part of the TV snob. I’m not acting.
Do you have an acting coach working with you?
What did I just say?
Is Zoe like you?
Okay. I give up. Seriously. I GIVE UP. Zoe? You mean my pet name for my penis? Is Zoe like me? Well, Zoe is definitely a PART of me, but Zoe is definitely different. Which is not to say that I don’t like Zoe. I like Zoe a lot. I play with Zoe when I’m alone in hotel rooms like I am now.
How are you not alike?
I am a human being. Zoe is my penis.
Will that change as you get older?
Have you gotten advice from mom or sister about business?
My mother wrote children’s books so this question actually makes sense. I used to write poems on her old electric typewriter. I remember one particular afternoon when I was about seven she told me something about writing that I will never forget. She said . . .
Do you have a celebrity crush?
No. That wasn’t it. Please. I wasn’t finished. She told me that all readers, when they are reading a work of literature quietly to themselves . . .
What was your most embarrassing moment:
For the love of God, I am trying to salvage this interview and all you can do is pepper me with asinine questions designed to elicit superficial answers! What do you want me to say? "Once I answered a math question incorrectly and it was so embarrassing!"
So you raised your hand to answer a question and it was wrong?
Oh, yeah! And I was like so mortified.
You probably haven't raised your hand since?
[Sound of giggling here.] No! Isn’t that horrible.
I like telling stories backwards.
Film star you look up to/like to have a career like?
Do you like Hilary's music?
I don’t know who that is.
If you could work with any other actor/actress who?
Would you think you'd died and gone to heaven if you got a part in an Ashton Kutcher/Lindsay Lohan movie?
You got everything right except for the “heaven” part.
Something you can't live without:
The love of my wife.
Play video games?
Who's someone you look up to?