(NEW YORK, N.Y.) – Former Berkshire resident Taylor Mali and Amy Clampitt Fellow Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz will be holding a reading together on Thursday, October 6, at 8 pm (doors 7:30) at The Sheen Center, at 18 Bleecker St., in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, as part of its “2: The Art of the Duo” series. The reading will take place in the Sheen Center’s Loreto Theater, a restored, 19th-century, neoclassical proscenium house. The two veteran performance poets will go back and forth, poem for poem, in celebration of their longtime friendship.
When Taylor Mali and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz first met at a poetry slam in Chelsea in 1998, he was a middle school teacher who wrote poetry on the side and she was a 19-year-old NYU screenwriting student. Neither would have guessed it would be the beginning of a nearly two-decade long friendship or that between them they would write nine books of poetry, three books of nonfiction, win four National Poetry Slam championships, perform their work in venues around the globe, and amass over 20 million views on YouTube for their poetry.
Mali and Aptowicz have been friends for almost 20 years. In fact, Mali calls Aptowicz his former second-best friend. “I always called Cristin my best friend, but then my wife got a little jealous and told me that she should be my best friend. So I started calling Cristin my second-best friend. When I got divorced, I changed Cristin’s status again but in a way that begs the story to be told.”
Aptowicz, who now lives in Austin with her husband (novelist Ernest Cline), lived in Amy Clampitt’s cottage in Lenox as a poet-in-residence for six months in 2013, appearing at many open mics and readings in the Berkshires during that time. She has six books of poetry to her name and non-fiction books including the New York Times best-selling “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels,” about the 19th-century American surgical pioneer Thomas Dent Mütter.
Taylor Mali is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the few people in the world to have no job other than that of poet.
Born in New York City in 1965 into a family some of whose members had lived there since the mid 1600s, Taylor Mali is a rare entity in spoken word, which is often considered to be an art form influenced by the inner city and dominated either by poets of color or those otherwise imbued with the spirit of hip-hop.
Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world, and his 12-year long Quest for One Thousand Teachers, completed in April of 2012, helped create 1,000 new teachers through “poetry, persuasion, and perseverance,” an achievement Mali commemorated by donating 12 inches of his hair to the American Cancer Society.
Taylor Mali is the author most recently of “Bouquet of Red Flags” (Write Bloody Books 2014), a poetic celebration of “a marriage I did not yet realize was over.” He is also the author of “What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World” (Putnam 2012) as well as two other books of poetry, “The Last Time As We Are” (Write Bloody Books 2009) and “What Learning Leaves” (Hanover 2002). He received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop “Teacher! Teacher!”, a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 Comedy Arts Festival.
Formerly president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America, Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops as well as doing occasional commercial voiceover work. He has narrated several books on tape, including “The Great Fire” (for which he won the Golden Earphones Award for children’s narration).
Mali, who is now the father of a toddler, is working on his fourth collection of poetry called “Late Father.”
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet. She is the author of six books of poetry (including “Dear Future Boyfriend,” “Hot Teen Slut,” “Working Class Represent,” “Oh, Terrible Youth” and “Everything is Everything”) as well as nonfiction books, “Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine,” which made 7 National “Best Books of 2014? lists (including Amazon, The Onion’s AV Club, NPR’s Science Fridays and the UK newspaper The Guardian, among others) and “Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam,” which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature,” and which features Taylor Mali as a main character.
Cristin’s most recent awards include the ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residency at the University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (2011) and the Amy Clampitt Residency (2013). Her sixth book of poetry, “The Year of No Mistakes,” was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013, and would go on to win the Writers’ League of Texas Book of the Year Award for Poetry (2013-2014). Her second book of nonfiction, “Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine,” was released by Gotham Books (Penguin) in fall 2014, debuted at #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Books about Health, and would stay on it for three months.
For tickets and information, visit the Sheen Center.