How To Write a Political Poem

I posted a while back a few Def Poetry videos that I found interesting. This one is from Taylor Mali who did “Totally Like Whatever”, or what I dubbed: Speak with Authority. He is both a teacher and poet from New York. This piece here is one my favorites.

In Mp3 format

How to Write a Political Poem
By Taylor Mali

However it begins, it’s gotta be loud!
and then it’s gotta get a little bit louder…
Because this is how you write a political poem
and how you deliver it with power.

Mix current events with platitudes of empowerment.
Wrap it up in rhyme or rhyme it up in rap until it sounds cool.

Glare until it sinks in.

Because somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.
I said somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted!

See, that’s your Hook, and you gotta’ have a Hook.
More than the look, it’s the hook that is the most important part.
The hook has to hit and the hook’s gotta fit.
Hook’s gotta hit hard in the heart.

Because somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.

And Dick Cheney is peeing all over himself in spasmodic glee.
See what I did?
Make fun of politicians, it’s easy, especially with Republicans
like Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, and . . . Al Gore.
See what I did?
I called Al Gore a Republican. That must mean that my political
sensibilities are much more finely tuned than yours
Talk about idiotic juxtapositions of political personalities and ideologies
as if communism really were the opposite of democracy,
as if we needed Ralph Nader, not Darth Vader.

Amazing Grace, how sweet theâ??

Stop in the middle of a song that everyone knows and loves.
This will give your poem a sense of urgency.
Because there is always a sense of urgency in a political poem.
There is no time to waste!
Corruption doesn’t have a curfew,
greed doesn’t care what color you are
and the New York City Police Department
is filled with police officers, who wear guns on their hips
and carry metal badges pinned over their hearts.
Injustice isn’t injustice it’s just in us just as injustice is just in ice.
That’s the only alienation of this alien nation
in which you either fight for freedom
or else you are free and dumb!
Here in Free Born Hall where you are either
Born free or Free Born
and born and free

And even as I say this somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.

And it makes me wanna
it makes me wanna
it makes me wanna…

Because I have seen the disintegration of gentrification
and I can talk with great articulation
about cosmic constellations, and atomic radiation.
I’ve seen D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation
but preferred 102 Dalmations.
Like a cross examination, I can give you the explanation
of why films like SlamNation are the ultimate manifestation
of poetic ejaculation and egotistical manipulation.
and other things that rhyme like Asian
with Haitian and this nation.

And maybe they are still counting votes somewhere in Florida,
but atthe end of a political poem that just doesn’t matter anymore!!

Because all you have to do to end a political poem
is to get real quiet
close your eyes
and end by saying:

the same line three times,
the same line three times,
the same line three times.


  • this was really good. wonder if we can get this on the national curriculum. i know i’m always bitching about the fact that students are taught less and less each year, but this year they have taken poetry out of the Tawjihi curriculum because its too hard for students to understand. hey, here’s a thought, why dont we just take out math, physics, chemistry, Arabic, Religion or anything else the students may actually have to think their way through. hand to God, this is the beginning of the end.

  • lol I can’t help but ask, why is he so angry? I used to think Arabs were the only ones who were angry while reading poetry :p

    I loved it, and I saw the one you showed of him before it was also great.

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