Thursday, April 30, 2015


On this last day of a month supposedly dedicated to poetry (though that's every month for me) I can announce that my new book (from Hanging Loose Press) is now available. I'd like to add it to the icons in the column to your right on my blog page but Google changed the design format and won't respond to my old style one. So for information for ordering from the publisher click here.

I'm giving my first reading from the actual book this evening (Thursday April 30th) at 6:30 on the second floor of the Barnes & Noble Rutgers University bookstore in New Brunswick NJ, with two other hanging Loose authors with new books: Joanna Fuhrman and Tom Devaney.

Next up will be a reading on May 10th, Mother's Day, at KGB bar on East 4th in Manhattan at 7PM with two authors with new books from other presses, Dale Herd and Lewis Warsh. Hopefully there will be more readings in the New York area and perhaps other places on the East Coast.

I don't usually recommend Amazon, but I see the book is available for ordering there and would humbly suggest if you use that avenue for purchasing a copy and like what you read, a few positive words in their review section for the book might convince another to buy it and reimburse the press for their efforts.

[PS: some friends having problems with Amazon and I see that they have the wrong price so try ordering it from the publisher via the link at the end of the first paragraph above or from your local bookstore if you have one!]

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Best analysis yet on the Baltimore events comes from my friend Mindy Fullilove, the great interpreter of urban history and present challenges and opportunities: here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


and this:
and this:
or this:
and this
or this:

or this:


[it is an instant gratification of the anger impulse to attack your own neighborhood and neighbors' welfare—all I can think of are the fellow seniors who need that CVS for their prescriptions etc.—and can never be justified but can be understood and put in context.]

Monday, April 27, 2015


The question in the title of this post doesn't refer to the cover of the latest TIME magazine, though it could (as in how come they chose such a threatening unflattering mean-looking photo of Ruth Ginsberg, one of my heroes and worthy of at least the gentle photographic treatment the Kanye version of this issue's cover got (you can look it up).

No, the picture I'm questioning is the whole idea of an issue devoted to "The 100 Most Influential People" not only because as usual it's mostly "Americans" and mostly "white" (somehow Canadians and Central and South Americans aren't considered "American" to many in the USA including incredibly many so-called "journalists") but because TIME chooses in some crucial cases to drop any aspect of actual journalism and just bends over for the rich and famous.

For instance, to write about how influential the Koch brothers are, they chose Rand Paul! That's like asking the prostitute to write why her pimp is so great. Is it a surprise this happens again and again when the subject is a powerful right-winger? (E.g. John Boner gets to write why Mitch McConnell is so influential.) But it's not just TIME catering to powerful right-wingers and ignoring the damage people like The Koch brothers and Mitch McConnell have caused this country and the world over the past decades, it's just the mostly ass-kissing back-cratching nature of too many of the pieces in this issue and in too many other versions of this kind of media genuflecting to the powerful.

When I was a kid and began reading TIME it was a very conservative publication that supported mostly conservative Republican politicians and political agendas and justified the domination of politics and society by the white Anglo-Saxon male elite that basically ran the country and big business then. But at least the reporting though biased was based on actual factual events and statements and a modicum of research (of course ignoring facts that disputed the mag's biases).

But the 1960s changed all that and afterwards TIME began including more of the liberal side of politics and political agendas, based on facts and decent journalistic research. More recently, with the loss of readers and revenue due to the digital revolution and the influence of the Internet etc. TIME has begun to cater to celebrity journalism, covering mostly "celebrities" and using celebrity "journalists" or wannabe journalists or not-even-pretending-anymore-to-be journalists.

It's like the inside-the-beltway and other bubbles of elite incestuousness that focuses the few media conglomerates that dominate the media on fellow elite (i.e. the 1% and their mouthpieces) have so taken over the USA on so many levels that they can't even see what fools they are or how no matter how talented they may be Oprah Winfrey writing why Lee Daniels is so influential and great is totally self-indulgent jive, or fluff if you prefer.

The whole idea of "most influential" as a TIME yearly concept (the party seemed even more back-scratching and ass-kissing than the Hollywood, I mean White House correspondent's dinner) is just another way for the elite to congratulate each other on being fellow elite (with just enough of a small percentage of actual achievers thrown in to have someone new to talk about each year).

Friday, April 24, 2015


So next Thursday, April 30th, at 6:30PM, at the "official" Rutgers University New Brunswick bookstore (Barnes & Noble), I will be reading some poems from my new book, SWING THEORY, as will Joanna Fuhrman and Tom Devaney from their new books, THE YEAR OF YELLOW BUTTERFLIES and RUNAWAY GOAT CART (click here for the store's event announcement and details).

If you live in the area I'd love to see you there.

[PS: I'll be reading with Dale Herd and Lewis Warsh on May 10th in lower Manhattan for those for whom that may be a more convenient location.]

Thursday, April 23, 2015


When I wrote this post about the film BOYHOOD back when it first came out last year, I thought it should win all the awards. I saw it in the theater that time but did receive a screener (disc made for awards season to send to voters) and watched it tonight with a friend.

Seeing it a second time, I have to say it isn't just the best film made last year, it's one of the best films ever made, for my taste. I had the opportunity to watch more closely the transitions from year to year in a story that covers twelve years in a boy's life in real time and they are incredibly well written and acted and even more incredibly directed and edited.

The performances not only held up, watching it a second time and on a smaller screen, but impressed me even more, including the most minor roles. BOYHOOD is not just a unique work of film art, but a unique work of any kind of art. It's singular and brilliant, especially in the ways it understates that singularity and brilliance.

I know some folks who weren't so impressed because the story isn't flashy or contrived in the usual plot point ways. They're entitled to their opinion, but mine is: BOYHOOD should be in the top ten if not five of any film lover's list of greatest movies ever.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


"When I write my only concern is accuracy. I try to write accurately from the poise of mind which lets us see that things are exactly what they seem. I never worry about beauty, if it is accurate there is always beauty. I never worry about form, if it is accurate there is always form."  —Lew Welch (from the preface to Ring of Bone)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


My oldest child, my darling daughter Caitlin, and her husband Ed have been growing corn especially for Ed's Popcorn on what they call Little Bit Farm for a few years now. If you're ever in The Berkshires you won't find better popping corn, to learn more here's the link to their Facebook Page (to like and follow).


Check out this article on and interview with my sister-in-law Luloo and her husband Evan, first time farmers and doing it stylishly.

Friday, April 17, 2015


This PBS documentary—CHILDREN OF GIANT—is not only moving, it's enlightening. Director Hector Galan uses the sixtieth anniversary of Hollywood descending on the small Texas town of Marfa to film the 1956 Academy Award winning film GIANT to explore historic anti-Mexican and anti-Mexican-American attitudes of the "Anglos" who for generations supported prejudice and animosity as well as segregation of "Anglos" and "Mexicans."

It's a very smart approach to opening a different kind of window on what is often overlooked in discussions of "race" and "class" in "America." A lot of fascinating and important history in this documentary that I suspect might be more palatable to a wider audience because of the glamor of GIANT'S stars and their own subsequent personal tragedies (the first of which was James Dean's death in a car accident while GIANT was being edited).

I'd love to see more projects like this, using other Hollywood classics to explore important social and political issues through the filter of the experience of real people who were a part of the filmmaking, even if only as background. A brilliant way to engage an audience in understanding often forgotten or overlooked or unknown but meaningful historic realities.

If you can call up your PBS channel shows on demand, or if it runs again next week, be sure to catch CHILDREN OF GIANT.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Now that I get what TBT means, this is a flashback to the first time I "starred" in a movie professionally (I'd done some student and underground flicks for free earlier in my life) and was still using only my first and last names like I did (and do) for my writing (the next flick I was billed as one of the stars of, THE NESTING, because it was SAG and there already was a Michael Lally in the Screen Actors Guild I had to add my middle name and from then on was always listed in acting credits as Michael David Lally)...LAST RITES was later retitled DRACULA'S LAST's a low low low budget movie and not very good but it was a kick to finally be doing something I dreamed about doing as a kid...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


"There is poetry in everything. That
  is the biggest argument
  against poetry."

—Miroslav Holub (from The Root of the Matter, don't remember the translator)

Monday, April 13, 2015


Can't believe I never saw this movie, but then again, it came out in 1972 when I was neck deep in political activism and a movie starring Ryan O'Neal would not have been calling to me, though I always dug Babra Streisand (who more or less started the trend of spelling your name in an untraditional but phonetic way)—or almost always—just for being the amazing musical innovator she was etc. and I always dug Peter Bogdonavich, who even when his movies didn't work they were such brave attempts to pay homage to the history of films (no coincidence his first and greatest was THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) you had to admire the attempt.

Anyway, I caught it tonight and was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing out loud several times at the kind of slapstick humor that normally leaves me either cold or embarrassed for those performing it. Because WHAT'S UP DOC? is Bogdanovich's homage to the "screwball comedies" of the 1930s and '40s. And he manages to pull it off, while still making a film very much of its time (1972). All the performances, intentionally over the top, were delightful, including Madeline Kahn's debut and that of my late friend Stefan Gierasch.

If you've never seen it, do.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


I saw Judith Malina around The Village and The Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1950s and early '60s and knew who she was, one of the founders of The Living theater (the first production I dug of theirs was The Brig which was first staged while I was serving in the military and a year after I had been court martialed so I related). But I didn't meet her until the mid '60s during their Paradise Now period. The last time I saw her and spoke to her was earlier in this century.

Though she reminded me of several women in my life, or vice versa, (my first wife, Lee, and her were both under five feet tall, and early on had similar styles, capes etc.) she was unique as a personality and as a creator of live theater (along with her late husband Julian Beck for most of their life on stage).

This obituary from the NY Times isn't exhaustive at all, her life was so rich with theatrical and activist creativity and events, but it'll give you an idea.


Caught the first episode of this BBC production on PBS and have to admit, I'm hooked. Despite my not digging Damian Lewis much (though most women I knew swooned over him in HOMELAND), I'm liking him so far in this, and everyone else is excellent, as usual in these Brit productions, especially Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell.

I love history and will probably dispute much in every episode since pretty the dialogue and much of the character interpretation is the writer Hilary Mantel's whose historical novels the series is based on. But as in DEADWOOD and other creative historical series, the characters are based on real people and events which grounds the writers of these shows in ways that allows for interpretation but not total distortion.

But we'll see. Or at least I will.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


James Remar, me and Bill Mosley on the set of WHITE FANG in Haines, Alaska (c. 1990)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


"The craft-requisites of poetry accommodate the urgency, in it." —Laura Riding (from the Preface to her Selected Poems)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015



Talk about Jersey boys. Sinatra's voice (he was known as "The Voice" in his first incarnation as the greatest popular vocalist of the 1940s, taking the title from Bing Crosby, which led to confusion for me as a boy, cause Crosby was an Irish-American hero, representing the heights for our community back then, but Sinatra was a home boy, growing up in nearby Hoboken) was the dominant one, and still is, on the soundtrack of my life.

Friends and children and anyone within the sound of my voice has heard me go on endlessly about his amazing artistry. I've always been impressed with humans who can extend the natural talents of our species beyond what anyone previously thought was possible. The great artists and scientists and athletes and thinkers and leaders etc. Sinatra was one of those.

Crosby changed popular signing forever because he happened to come along when the microphone was invented so a singer didn't have to shout a la Sophie Tucker and Ethel Merman and others who broke into the entertainment business when being heard in the last row wasn't enhanced by electricity. Bing made singing intimate and personal, so the females swooned to the intimacy of his tone and the ease of his seemingly effortless control of the melody, influenced by the great African-American musical innovators.

Sinatra was influenced by Bing on every level, from treating his voice like a jazz musician's ax (the slang of his time and mine for a musical instrument) to the casual but perfectly groomed clothes styles of the era. But Sinatra was competitive, disciplined and tenacious in his persistent efforts to improve his technique until he had surpassed Bing, and he did.

The four-hour documentary HBO aired Sunday night and tonight (technically last night now)—SINATRA: All Or Nothing At All—in recognition that Frank would be 100 this year if he were still alive, explains some of the above to some extent, but more importantly it perfectly conveys the reality of Sinatra's importance and iconic stature in "American" (really the world's) culture.

It's directed by Alex Gibney, the guy that also did the recent HBO documentary about Scientology—GOING CLEAR—I commented on a few posts back. The guy can make a documentary film. The ingenious device for SINATRA was to use footage from Frank's 1971 retirement concert which he thought was his last (two years later he returned) so handpicked eleven songs to summarize a career that began in the 1930s. The order of the songs, at least as edited for the film, reflect the chapters in Sinatra's life by expressing the emotions connected to seminal events.

And intertwined with the songs and within them (the vocalizing hushed in the background or faded away) are snippets from various artists and family and friends about those seminal moments in his life, or from brilliantly edited pieces of various interviews Sinatra did for radio or TV or privately for his daughter Tina and others to create a beautifully, almost melodically paced narrative that recreates the impact of Sinatra's creativity and personality on his times (and mine, since his first hit came out the year I was born, 1942, and being a local Jersey boy who everyone was proud of, the sound of his voice was constantly on our radio and Victrola).

If you can get access to the film on demand and watch it from beginning to end (including the end credits please) you'll not only learn a lot about one of music history's most important artists but also about our country's and the world's history during the 20th Century. Informative, entertaining and engaging, is how I'd sum up SINATRA: All Or Nothing At All. Well worth seeing.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I meant to see JERSEY BOYS on Broadway before it even opened. I've dug Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons from the minute I first heard them. Not only because they're from my part of Jersey so seemed like home boys in my mind and heart, but because they were making their own music before The Beach Boys or The Beatles had their breakthroughs, and they were neighborhood guys. And like those two other groups who all hit the charts around the same time, The Four Seasons were not some corporate creation.

But I missed the chance to get a ticket to the Broadway musical before it became a smash hit and tickets became hard to get. Then I heard the movie was coming out and planned to catch it in the theater, but whatever got in the way I never did. Now it's on cable so I finally watched it, and though it misses some beats—and frankly I think I could have written a better book, as they say, for this show—

still, it's directed by Clint Eastwood, so it's pretty well cast and any miscues in the plot soon pass because the rhythm of Eastwood's direction keeps the story moving, even when it's playing fast and loose with what are, or may really be, the facts. Hey, it worked for me, and I have to say it was worth it just for the ending credits.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


My grandson playing drums with the band Highland in the lodge halfway up the ski slope at Butternut outside Great Barrington the day before Easter. Life is good.


"Poetry is shit for your fan."  —Morgan Gibson (I wrote this in a journal in the early 1970s but didn't note what book or magazine it came from)

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Some friends recommended this French film and I'm happy they did. Some really fine acting, directing, editing and soundtrack. As always it's a delight to see the way European movies allow lead actors to look human rather than a fantasy of human perfection. And have grown up stories and actors. Imagine a movie about love and romance starring three middle-aged Hollywood stars (the man might be in his forties or fifties but his leading lady certainly wouldn't be).

Seventy-year-old Catherine Deneuve has a role as the sixty-year-old mother of two daughters close to forty, and she looks in some shots as perfectly beautiful as she did when she was twenty, but she also looks like she's got a pot belly and other signs of normal senior evolution.

And the actresses playing her daughters (Chiara Mastrioinni, Marcello's and Jane Birkin's daughter, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Serge's and Catherine Deneuve's daughter) are both charming, yet each uniquely humanly imperfect. Both a delight to watch. The lead actor (Benoit Poelvoorde) plays a forty-seven-year-old man who is the romantic lead, and yet he more than all of them looks like such a normal middle-aged man he'd never make it to a leading role in most "American" films, though his screen charisma is somehow even more powerful as a result.

I won't give away any of the plot, some of which could only work in a French movie, but work it does. The ending raises questions that I'm sure we'll discuss when I see the friends who recommended it. But in the meantime, the friend I saw it with and I both left the theater feeling elated from having had a very satisfying movie experience. You might too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Since they officially made April poetry month, and even though poetry keeps me going and has every day of my life, in honor of the officials getting official about poetry, I intend to post poems and quotes and other stuff about poetry as often as I can in April, and I thought to start it off I'd post this poem by the eccentric and reclusive Alfred Starr Hamilton who lived in Montclair, New Jersey, in the last century (he was born in 1914 and I haven't looked up when he passed if the information has even made it to the web). Poet Geoff Hewitt helped get a book of Hamilton's poems published in 1970 by Jargon, one of the best small presses of the 20th century, from which I extract this poem:


why, I often wondered
why I was a poet,
first of all

most of all, I wanted
to have been a bird
if I could have been a bird

but I wanted the starlings
to have been fed,
first of all

—Alfred Starr Hamilton