The Whetting Stone




Taylor Mali

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The Whetting Stone by Taylor MaliIn September of 2004, Rebecca Tauber Mali, the wife of performance poet Taylor Mali, killed herself by jumping out the window of their apartment in New York City. She was a teacher, and it was morning on the first day of school. In this haunting new collection of poems, Taylor Mali, once a teacher himself, explores her life and their love as well as the shape and texture of his own guilt and resilience.

Praise for The Whetting Stone

We’ve long admired Taylor Mali’s vibrant and inspiring poetry but were left stunned by the retelling of this tragic chapter from his life. Here, Mali’s familiar gifts for honesty and precision, so finely honed, have been turned inward, as he interrogates the limits of love, grief, guilt, and forgiveness. Brief as it is, this little book forges an epic journey of emotional wisdom and healing, which moved us all deeply. It speaks a truth that needed to be written, needs to be read, and stands as a testament to the human need for poetry itself.
Rattle’s Editors

Taylor Mali’s The Whetting Stone is a reflective and penetrating meditation on a solitary woman’s death and the effect and influence it has on the poetic output of one who loved her. The poems explore the dark, tragic side of human existence, which is always intertwined with public scrutiny. Because Mali is able to voice his grief, the reader senses that the act of literary expression becomes a vehicle for healing his suffering. The Whetting Stone is a brave and significant work.
—Sonja James, in The Journal

The Whetting Stone reads like a thriller.The opening poem left me wondering, and hoping that things might turn out differently, but the book offered an unflinching look at a complicated story. At times subtle, at others, harrowing. Beautiful, honest poetry.
—Nadia Ibrashi, on Facebook

Started reading it yesterday and have already decided I need to teach some (all?) of the poems in this book. Brilliant. Beautiful. Human.
—Elizabeth Johnston, on Goodreads

Sample Poems

•“The New Ash on the Roof of Our Building” in Pank
•“The Second Pass” in Rattle (online)
•“The Entire Act of Sorrow” in Rattle (online)
•“News of My Wife’s Divorce Reminds Me of Your Death” in Rattle (online)

Other Poems

• “Magnifies an Object Ten Times” in Rattle #42
• “What Teachers Make” in Rattle #27
• “Undivided Attentionfrom What Learning Leaves
Ten more poems on his website

About the Author

Taylor MaliTaylor Mali is one of the best-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement and one of the original poets to appear on the HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.” A four-time National Poetry Slam champion, he is the author of four collections of poetry and a book of essays, What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World. In April of 2012, Mali completed his twelve-year quest to convince 1,000 people to become teachers, an achievement he commemorated by donating twelve inches of his hair to the American Cancer Society. He lives in Brooklyn, where he curates the Page Meets Stage reading series at the Bowery Poetry Club. (website)



Cover art by Bianca Stone
“Wedding Cake,” pen, ink, watercolor, gouache

Author photo by Peter Dressel

ISBN: 978-1-931307-34-5
Cover price: $7.00
Chapbook: 32 pages
Size: 6″ x 9″