I wrote another poem
about the importance
of simply being there.
Every day. All the time.
– from “I Wrote Another Poem About Fatherhood”
Taylor Mali was my introduction to performance poetry. As a teacher in the early 2000s “What Teachers Make” made its way through every school building’s reply all email. It was important. It was timely. More importantly it expressed exactly how I felt about being an educator and the stigmas that come with it. In the almost 20 years since then, I have had the pleasure of taking workshops from him, as well as having him author the very first Power of Poetry essay for The Poetry Question.
His newest work, Late Father, is no different. It is personal. It is timely. And most importantly, once again, it highlighted everything I feel about being a father myself. This collection speaks to Mali’s becoming a father at almost 50, and the love, fear, excitement, and hardships that come with this new role. Having written about his father in previous work, this feels nostalgic. It feels like watching a black-and-white television or baseball. It feels like a reminder of fathers loving their children but not really knowing what to do with them when they’re so small. It’s the t-shirt that will always smell like baby. It’s the handing baby to Nanny even though you are still a father.
Late Father does not feel like it was written for the stage. This was written for a glass of whisky, late at night, in front of the fire with a photo album. This was written to share at the baby’s graduation and wedding. This is a reminder of mislabeled key collections and realized dreams. This is important. This is personal.