The Valdosta Daily Times
How do you get a nationally known poet who lives in New York City to speak to your seventh-grade class in Hahira?
If you’re Ashleigh Kenny Tucker, you just ask.
Tucker’s students have been studying the poet Taylor Mali. Perhaps best known for his poem “What Teachers Make,” Mali
is also recognizable by his
easy, conversational delivery
of his poems.
“Mali has a unique and extremely profound ability to make a poem come to life,” said Tucker. “He performs it in a manner that has viewers on the edge of their seats. He is proof that poems are not limited to rhyming lines that are difficult to comprehend.”
After seeing students quote Mali poems back and forth to each other and watching how their own abilities to perform a poem developed through studying Mali, Tucker decided to see if he would meet with the class via Skype, a popular Internet video phoning service.
“I didn’t think it would be possible, but I figured it would not hurt to reach out.”
After emailing his agency and explaining her students’ love for his work, Tucker was shocked to receive an email and a phone call from Mali. A former seventh grade teacher himself, Mali was glad to oblige her, Skyping with her class, as well as others, Tuesday morning.
“Skype has revolutionized our classrooms. It provides teachers and classrooms with the opportunity to ... interact with people they would never come into contact with otherwise. Reading about an author/poet is one thing, but personally interacting with them is a whole new level.”
Packed into the school library, the crowd of seventh graders talked with Mali, asking him questions about his life and his poetry, about his writing habits and his teaching career. Mali took them on a tour of his apartment and shared some lines of a poem he had just started composing before he met with them. Before closing, Mali was asked what could students do to follow and accomplish their dreams.
“In life, you can do things for two kinds of rewards: External and internal,” said Mali. “You have the external: money or praise or good grades, things like that. And then you have the internal, the joy inside. You’ve got to pursue your dream for the sake of the dream and not what the dream might get you ... And don’t be afraid to ask. I’m here because your teacher asked. You don’t get anything in life until you ask for it.”