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Story: Slam Poet Taylor Mali Inspires Students, Staff

photos by Lorien Peeples


On February 3, guest speaker Taylor Mali, a well-known slam poet, read a few of his poems to the students of Dripping Springs high school in the competition gym during their advisory period.

While some students didn’t recognize his name, they became intrigued after they realized that Mali was also the voice of a Burger King commercial.

“I had never heard of him, but the speaker was very interesting because I never thought that you could be a professional poem reader and actually earn money,” sophomore Emily Rapp said.

English II teacher Miss Casanova described the speaker as “great”.

“He had a really great rapport with both teachers and students, which is key in grabbing their attention,” Casanova said.

Mali’s idea to have students gather in a circle proved to be a big hit, as multiple students joined him on the gym floor.

“I thought it was a good way to have those who were really interested in what he was saying and doing to have a more intimate experience,” sophomore Kenzie Olsen said.

Olsen also thought the assembly was more unique than previous assemblies.

“Although I had never heard of him before, it was interesting to hear some of his work and learn about what he does for a living,” Olsen said.

Casanova, on the other hand, had heard of the poet previous to the visit.

“When I first became a teacher, a friend of mine sent me a YouTube video of him reciting his poem ‘What Teachers Make’,” Casanova said.

Olsen and Rapp both agreed that assemblies are a good way to have fun and give your brain a break after a long school day.

“I like the idea of guest speakers as long as it’s an interesting topic,” Rapp said. “We already sit through 7 hours of learning and work, so assemblies and guest speakers are a good way to relax.”

Casanova said that it’s really great to see where life can take you.

“We have some students who are really interested in poetry, who may want to be a poet one day,” Casanova said, “and for them to be able to see that it is possible to make a living at it is really inspiring. No two people have the same background or come from the same experiences, but having guest speakers who grew up in similar towns or similar conditions, is a great way to show you that if you work hard, you can be successful.”

Some students said they didn’t know what to expect.

“I was expecting a lot of boring poems written by famous poets, but most of them were about the reader’s experiences, which was entertaining,” Rapp said.

At times throughout the assembly though, the audience seemed to lose focus.

“I think the audience was mostly intrigued during his first poem,” Rapp said, “but then everyone started talking amongst themselves and what their thoughts were about the poems.”

As an English teacher, Casanova realizes that a speaker can never capture 100% of the audience’s attention.

Written by Camryn Horst

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