Daily Archives: July 12, 2007

Totally, Like, Whatever

I am in love with Taylor Mali.

This man is an extraordinary teacher and an award winning Slam poet. The passion that comes through in his voice literally brings tears to my eyes. He GETS it, and he wants us to get it, too.

This morning, my public speaking students are going to listen to this poem. I can teach them techniques for overcoming their anxiety and I can teach them how to outline their ideas and make notes and I can teach them to put together a visual presentation, but I don’t think I can teach them to be passionate about what they’re saying; how to care about things enough to put out the effort to try to convince others that it’s important. The best I can do, really, is to try to infect them with my own passion, and to expose them to people who embody passionate discourse.

Talor Mali is an example of a man who embodies passion, and I invite you to read and listen, and see if you’re not inspired by the last words.

Totally like whatever, you know?

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences — so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally…
I mean absolutely… You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like…

And so actually our disarticulation… ness
is just a clever sort of… thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since…
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.



© Taylor Mali 2005


Filed under admiration, Poetry, Teaching