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Blackbird Poetry Festival

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blackbird Festival presents Taylor Mali

joined by poets Chris August and Steve Mandes
Taylor Mali
Taylor Mali | Photo by Peter Dressell
Howard County Poetry & Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), in partnership with Howard Community College’s Office of Student Life, English and World Languages Division, and Arts & Humanities Division, presents the annual Blackbird Poetry Festival on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Howard Community College. The all-day event features readings by Taylor Mali, Chris August, and Steve Mandes. The festival will also include readings by student poets from HCC and on-campus patrols by the Poetry Police, who will award individuals carrying a poem in recognition of national Poem in Your Pocket Day.


Poetry Police
Poetry police will report for duty at 10am in the Duncan Hall Lobby. Poetry Police Captain Rick Leith and his force, in celebration of Poem in Your Pocket Day, will distribute both citations to students and staff who find themselves without a poem in their pocket and rewards to those who carry a poem. To participate, contact

Morningbird: Kittleman Room (DH 100) from 11am-12:20
Featuring Chris August and Steve Mandes (see bios below)
A dynamic mix of readings and interactive poetry exercises, this event is open to all. Faculty are encouraged to bring their classes. Please RSVP to so we can set up the room accordingly.

Sunbird: Smith Theater from 2:30pm-4:30pm
This free event features Taylor Mali (see bio below) and several student, faculty and staff poets. Mali will read twice: at 2:40 and again at 3:40. If you have a student who wants to read, have them contact to sign up by April 17. Space is limited.

Nightbird: Smith Theater from 7pm-8:30pm
Tickets are required for this event – they can be purchased through  Taylor Mali will take the stage again – this is sure to be an exciting and inspiring poetry performance. A book signing will follow.

Tickets to Nightbird are $15 for students, teachers, and seniors or $20 for general tickets. Tickets can be purchased at For more information, call HoCoPoLitSo at (443) 518-4568 or email

“I now make my living traveling around the world teaching poetry, talking to teachers about how to teach poetry, and simply reminding teachers why the path they have chosen to walk is noble, valuable, crucially important, and rewarding…. I gave myself a goal: I would convince one thousand people to become teachers…I called it the Quest for One Thousand Teachers…. I am not just writing to delight and instruct anymore, I am trying to change the world, one teacher at a time.”

– 2015 Blackbird Poetry Festival featured poet Taylor Mali, in What Teachers Make

Poet Bios

Taylor 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″ of his hair to the American Cancer Society.

Mali is the author of What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World,  two other books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are and What Learning Leaves, and most recently Bouquet of Red Flags. 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).

WATCH Taylor Mali perform his poetry:

Chris August, 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam champion, is a writer, activist, and former special educator from Baltimore, Maryland. A frequent spoken-word performer around the country, he has also represented the United States at the Poetry World Cup held in Paris, France and was a featured opening performer at ‘Howl’ in the City in 2010.

Steve Mandes (a Blackbird alum from the very first festival in 2009) is a teacher, poet, and fiction writer.  He received his Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Baltimore.  His poems have appeared in Barbaric Yawp, The Unknown Writer, The Muse, Welter, The Red River Review, Prick of the Spindle and Xanadu, and he is the author of Kiss Big Life. 

Past festival poets.