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The Whetting Stone

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  41 reviews
In 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 o ...more
Paperback, 32 pages
Published 2017 by The Rattle Foundation
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Average rating 4.36  · 
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Rebecca Renner
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This chapbook broke my heart. What makes it even more heartbreaking is that the departed belovèd's name is Rebecca. 😩 Just plunge that knife in and twist. ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Ah, Saturday...I think I'll read some poetry since the internet is so grim of late.
Twenty minutes later: *sobbing into the pages of this chapbook*

This chapbook is a knife.

It is precise as it flays you open.

I would be hesitant to share a single poem, cut from whole muscle, because it would no longer move or bleed the same way. You must read it all, from start to finish, and I'm sorry because it will hurt.
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I applaud Rattle’s selection for their 2017 Chapbook Prize. This is the most astonishing chapbook I’ve read. The poems deal with the suicide of Mali’s wife, her life and their life leading up to it, the shocking event itself, and how he got through it. The writing (or healing) covers at least nine years, but even that wouldn’t have allowed most writers to write so well about such a devastating event. He balances on the tightrope of being poignant, even profound, without toppling off into the mau ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
So, I remember entering into the Rattle chapbook contest, and then getting yet another "sorry no" email from them. But in that "sorry no" email, Rattle also announced the winner - Taylor Mali.
Now, Taylor Mali has been a HUGE influence on me - like, his poetry is what got me into spoken word poetry. I credit him as one of the people who has changed my life for the better.
So when I find out HE won the contest, I was actually honored to have lost to him, in all honesty.
AND THEN, I got a copy of his
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mali’s collection detailing the aftermath of his wife’s suicide won the Rattle 2017 chapbook contest. Mali is known as part of the poetry slam movement, and has won the National Poetry Slam several times. Slam poets are storytellers, and their poems are topical. These poems reflect the tight, precise imagery associated with slam poetry. They are not spare, but, as a properly sharpened chef’s knife, they cut straight to the bone. Every one of the nineteen poems in the chapbook is vital to the col ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of Taylor Mali's work, and have been lucky enough to see him in performance several times. This is a fantastic book, filled with poems that surprise, move, despair, delight. Well worth reading. ...more
Audrey Egan
Jan 14, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Beautiful and heart wrenching and thought provoking. What more could you want from a collection of poetry? It is small chap book of poems dedicated to, in response to, about his late wife, Rebecca. It is a wonderful read even though a few poems left me in tears.
Emma Sedlak
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-the-feels, poetry
This is the saddest I have ever been to give 5 stars to a book. It's also the quickest book to have wrecked me. ...more
Sandy olson Olson
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
beautiful. beautiful. beautiful.
and yes, I wish I could write like this. beautiful.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Gorgeous and heartbreaking.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
sometimes a book is a double edge sword, sometimes it falls into my hands at the right moment
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the chapbook that won the Rattle prize when mine didn’t. Well, I bow to superior talent. This little book is stunning. The 19 poems here are all about or addressed to his first wife, who committed suicide by jumping out of a sixth-story window in New York. Could he have stopped her? Was there something he could have done to help her? How does he go on now? He mulls these questions, linking some of them to the people who jumped from the towers on 9/11. I am gobsmacked by every one of thes ...more
Sandra McRae
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have been reading a book of poems every day this week, and this one is one I'll return to again, even though it is such a difficult subject. They say "Write what you know" but Mali shows us that the best poems are the ones we don't want to write, the ones that we scrape from the inside of our riskiest corners. Here he filets his darkest secrets...and yet his honesty frees even the reader. I won't elaborate because spoilers are the worst, but read this book and find out.

This book won the 2017
Meg Tuite
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking and questioning how depression is manifested and communicated. Here are some quotes:
"And I was going to write a poem about how fire is the only thing that can make a person jump out a window. And maybe I'm an idiot for thinking I could have saved her, could have loved her more, or told the truth about children. But depression, too, is a kind of fire. And I know nothing of either."
"When she jumped from the window
and they searched the apartment,
they found in the bathroom a knife,
Madalyne Jesus
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I bought this book because I read the word deformioli on page 8 while skimming and laughed so hard I nearly fell over myself. I took it home not expecting much, after all, I had bought it on a whim of fancy and only sought to show off my funny find.

And then I opened it again in boredom. Read another poem just to know what was in it. I skipped all around that book that afternoon, reading and re-reading it too many times to count. I found sorrow in those pages, I found loss. I found healing and
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been a fan of Taylor Mali for many years; ever since I saw his performance on Def Poetry Jam. Since then I have tried to follow him as he published works on various topics.

My intrigue for Mali came to a peak when he began posting videos of himself reading poems that would comprise The Whetting Stone. More than once I teared up and, even so, reading this short volume of works.

The piece that will always stick out to me, as it did when I first heard it, is "Depression, Too, is a Kind of Fir
Emily Shearer
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Is it poetry? Why yes, of course, in every way: pared down to essence, moving like water, heartbreaking and spare and complex and personal. But it reads as story, narrative, gripping drama, tragedy. Mali makes no apology for grit, for ugly, for all wounds laid bare. He also stitches them up with his humanity.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I meant to only read one or two poems and then get on with my day because I have so much to do. It was so compelling that I read the next one and then the next one and finished reading it about an hour or so. What poignant, heart-gripping, poetry! I had never heard of Taylor Mali before, but apparently, he's been on the scene for a while. He's extraordinary. Mali can count me among his fans. ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been a fan of Taylor Mali's work for years, but this chapbook is so different from his past work, which focuses on the advocacy of teachers. In this slim collection of poetry, Mali explores his relationship with his first wife, who suffered from crippling depression, her suicide, and his resilience and survival after her death. Heartbreaking. ...more
Jan 11, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book spares the reader of nothing, including its beauty. Writing about suicide could get gratuitous, and perhaps it's because Mali is such a deft wordsmith, but there is nothing gratuitous here. Just truth in its unflinching, measured, confessional tone. 'The Small Room Just Off the Evidence Cage' killed me though. ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This chapbook is sensational..and absolutely heartbreaking. The pages ache with truth and emotion. I am stunned by the raw honesty...and incredibly impressed with Taylor Mali's ability to express his experience, his grief. Congratulations on winning the 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize...well-deserved! ...more
Annette Boehm
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
At first glance, the premise is simple, but these poems are more complex than they seem. For more in-depth discussion, visit my blog: https://outsideofacat.wordpress.com/2... Not an easy book, but well worth reading. ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a longtime fan of Taylor Mali, I was blown away by this collection. The raw emotion from discussing his first wife's suicide is painful to endure with him. Almost as raw as Donald Hall... Great reads ...more
Robin Sinclair
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was a fan of Mali's work before reading The Whetting Stone, but I was unprepared for this. He peeled back his skin and showed some of his most raw parts in this chapbook. Reading it was an emotional experience and I am grateful that he decided to share this with us. ...more
Tamara Madison
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is not the kind of poetry that I usually read, but I love the powerful story behind it and what it teaches us. I also love the courage that the poet has to be so deeply naked and vulnerable on the page.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, grief
Winner of the 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize. Review pending.
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-chapbook
The tragedy of suicide expressed in poetry.
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
This collection of poems has a really sensational villanelle at its center: "Do Not Think of Suicide as the Ultimate F**k You." Granted, the entire chapbook is a distillation of the poet's painful memories of his first wife's suicide but nothing comes close to this one in terms of economy and effectiveness, rigor of form and unrelentingness of feeling. But that would be hard to do. It's a real stunner. ...more
Matt Haynes
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, as all his poetry is.
Annette Towler
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book of poems. Very real and honest. Excellent writing.
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Taylor Mali is a former teacher and classically trained actor who now makes his living as a professional poet. One of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, he is a veteran of the poetry slam and the author of What Learning Leaves and several spoken word CDs and DVDs. He lives and writes in New York City. For more information, visit www.taylormali.com" ...more

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