Saturday, May 30, 2015


Lots of old and new friends at the book publication party tonight (technically last night now) for Hanging Loose Press's new titles, including my Swing Theory. Too many people to name or remember. And as much as I enjoyed the evening and am grateful for it, I was also overwhelmed and worn out by it, a sign of age and a continuing result of my brain op.

But a few names I can call up who were among those it was a delight to see and catch up with include Eve Brandstein, John Restivo, Tim Lyons, artists Don and Teresa McClaughlin, and Donna Dennis, whose cover for Ed Friedman's book Two Towns is beautiful, poets Charles North (and artist Paula North, fighting a cold so we didn't get a chance to talk much), Tony Towle, Bill Zavatsky, Steve Levine, Theresa Burns, Paul Abruzzo, Tom Devaney, Joanna Furhman, et. al.

And poet/publishers Bob Hershon, Mark Pawlack, Donna Brook and Dick Lourie, (who edited Swing Theory and made it a much better book than we started with, and I forgot to acknowledge him as I meant to in the book, as well as cover artist Susan Campbell) (as I also meant to dedicate the book to Terence Winch who helped with a first edit and has always been my greatest supporter)...

Good books, good conversation, good friends, good times...who could ask for more?

Thursday, May 28, 2015


 Come help us celebrate our new titles!

  Rosalind Brackenbury

Thomas Devaney

Ed Friedman

Joanna Fuhrman

Caroline Hagood

Michael Lally

Pablo Medina

Friday, May 29, 6-8pm

10 River Terrace, Manhattan

all are welcome/free admission

Monday, May 25, 2015


Three quick thoughts about this Memorial Day now ending:

1: A lot of us didn't know that the first Memorial Day occurred when freed slaves gathered to honor the Union soldiers who died for their freedom. (Don't see much about that in history books or in movies etc. because the North had to bend over backwards to make the South feel better about losing and to backtrack on promises made to the freed slaves so as not to upset Southern whites etc.)

2: A lot of people seem to think Memorial Day honors all veterans of the military, like me, but it is only about those in the military who died in war.

3: Seems to me we need to expand that and honor all who die in wars, like the people in the towers and the four planes on 9/11 etc. and all the civilian casualties on either side of any war...

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Yes, the voters in the country me and my clan descend from voted in a democratic election—no filters, no gerrymandering, no electoral college, etc. just one person one vote—overwhelmingly to become the first country in the world to democratically vote "gay marriage" legal, or, to put it another way, the first country in the world to vote to not keep two people from getting married if they so desire.

And the kicker is: up until as recently as 1993, homosexuality was illegal in Ireland. Talk about a rapid turn around. Take that most-every-other-country-in-the-world.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

For some reason I can't embed this video like I usually can, but check it out: my friend Peter Case on David Letterman back in the day, great of Letterman to have him (or whoever made the decision) and terrific performance from Peter.


Tried to stay up to watch the Dave Letterman show finale but couldn't stay awake. I found it pretty much the same as the few other times I tried to watch it. A few great laughs, a couple of good laughs and then a lot of filler that frankly bored me.

I know he's seen as a late night TV innovator and his show and style of humor inspired a lot of other late night show hosts (Conan O'Brien most obviously) even if Letterman got a lot of his ideas from Steve Allen on the original Tonight Show long before Johnny Carson. (Letterman was seen as a great innovator when compared to Carson's more straight jacketed format and style.)

Happy for those who dug Letterman that he was around so many years for, I'm looking forward to Colbert...

Monday, May 18, 2015


Despite being predictably formulaic and oversimplified, HBO's BESSIE is totally worth watching because of the performances by Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith and Mo-Nique as Ma Rainey. I don't know what the beef is that Mo'Nique has with business associates or record companies etc. but she sure is a consistently impressive actress (proof being PRECIOUS and now BESSIE, entirely different characters with entirely different qualities) and Queen Latifah...

...I first saw Queen Latifah perform before any recording of hers came out. It was at a showcase for new talent thrown, if I remember correctly, by a record company in L.A.  Latifah was a teenager, the youngest performer on the stage that night, but she was the most impressive and memorable. When she came on stage and started performing it was electrifying, I felt my whole body respond, and even commented to the woman I was with that we were witnessing history.

She was born to play Bessie Smith, queen of the blues. And after watching this HBO film, it's clear Mo'Nique was born to play Ma Rainey. Their scenes together are nothing but great entertainment and pure performing brilliance. That's my take anyway.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


I had the great satisfaction of reading with poet Thomas Devaney not long ago, the first time I'd experienced his poetry as read by him, and it was a delight. At the reading I bought his new book, Runaway Goat Cart, just out from Hanging Loose Press (the publisher of my latest as well, the publication party for both—and others in this year's class—is on May 29th, 6-8PM at Poets House in Manhattan, all welcome) and had one of the most satisfying poetry-book-reading experiences of a lifetime of them.

I love this book, I love Devaney's approach to his poetry, I love the language and imagery and non-linear yet somehow always narratively driven articulation of the human condition and experience I find in these poems. Many that I loved most are too long to quote in full here but here's one of the shorter ones I love:


The stories about God lay out the situation as well as anything.
We are made in God's image and it shows.
Lightning is not a sign of God's wrath. This is true
and good to know, but at its crackling heart
lightning is an expression of God's speed.
Godspeed is the only prayer I know that makes sense.
So I offer it now—now go. Godspeed, I pray.

I don't know the summer. I only know the heat in this room,
even with these fans; or the story of the man who sat down
in the middle of the sidewalk and never got back up.
I am not that man, though I am partly immobile.
The ice cream store is closed. There is no more sunscreen.
I sit and write to you. I do not have time to write you
a short letter, so I write you a long one.
Everything God has done he has done quickly.
Oceans were an idea, but the planet itself was not.
God's miracles are as much as of surprise to the revolving-
        gendered-door of Her as they are to us.

Friday, May 15, 2015


"The fact that our task is exactly as large as our life makes it appear infinite."  —Franz Kafka (translated by Stephen Mitchell from his "Anthology of Sacred Prose" The Enlightened Mind)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Hope it doesn't seem too egotistic but I just had to share this review from someone whose contribution to the world of poetry and books has been exceptional and for which I am deeply grateful.

Monday, May 11, 2015


So last night's reading was as historic as I thought it would be, though not everyone there may have recognized that or why it might be. Scheduling it for Mother's Day meant many of those who might have shown up couldn't. And turns out the Internet site for the reading listed it variously as happening at 7PM or 8PM. So initially only a few folks were there at 7 and most of us thought the gate up the stairs meant the bar wasn't open but turns out it was.

The small venue filled up eventually with what I would call a choice group of people. Some historic figures in my literary world, like old friends the poets John Godfrey and Elinor Nauen and reacquainted old friend Don Yorty, other creative old and newer friends like Jamie Rose in from L.A. or John Restivo in from Long Island, and poet Rachel Diken from Jersey with me, and NYU poetry scholar Berengere Riou and more, making me feel fortunate to be among them all.

Unfortunately the reading started abruptly for this spontaneous reader, when I was introduced first and would not have the opportunity I usually prefer to hear others and then react with poem choices that reflect and comment on what came before. So I made instant choices from Swing Theory that were not my usual crowd-pleaser kind of performance poems, and from behind a lectern with a low lamp that cast weird shadows on a reader's face (while making my neck oddly glow so it finally looked thick and rugged rather than skinny and breakable) with a microphone that probably wasn't necessary but I used anyway since I had to bend over to read the poems in the lamp light...

...all making me feel more confined and unable to use my body in the ways I normally would for a reading, which helps me emphasize the rhythms and music of my words, at least to my ear, but as a result causing me to give a slower and more thoughtful rendering of the poems I chose, so all in all a uniquely challenging but for me also uniquely satisfying reading.

Then Lewis Warsh read from his terrific new book Alien Abduction, keeping it shorter than I did and leaving us all wanting more of his witty yet moving takes on his life experiences and observations. After which the woman who organized the reading introduced Dale Herd, who read from his new collection of published and unpublished short stories, Empty Pockets.

That to me was what made the reading historic. To my knowledge Dale hadn't read in New York since a reading he did in the early 1970s with Terence Winch at The St. Mark's Poetry Project. And for all I know it may be another several decades before he reads again, and being that he's now like me in his seventies, the opportunity to hear him so firmly articulate his perfectly crafted stories seemed to me like a gift from the writing god(s).

It was a long evening of words, yet for me it was too short. I could have listened to more of both Dale and Lewis for quite a while longer. As it is, I feel privileged and honored to have been a part of such a unique gathering and reading experience. May there be many more (but with better lighting and not on a holiday).

Sunday, May 10, 2015


One of my favorite family photos is this shot of my mother holding me with all my living siblings at the time (a brother between my sister and me, John, had passed as an infant) and my dad. That's Tommy in the uniform (this was taken midway through World War Two), he later became a Franciscan Friar renamed Father Campion, beside him is Robert, whose real first name was William, and next to me in my mother's arms was Buddy, as we called him in the family but whose real name was James, like our father's (and who would be in uniform not long after this photo was taken). And that's my sisters Joan (the older one) and Irene in front. Only Irene and I are still in physical form, but the spirit of all the others is alive in me and my world always. Especially my mother who passed on Mother's Day forty-nine years ago.

Friday, May 8, 2015


Back in the 1970s when I was writing book reviews for The Washington Post, I reviewed Dale Herd's first book Early Morning Wind, a collection of stories that captured the darker or just more real aspects of what came to be called "The Sixties." I said he was my generation's Hemingway only better.

In an interview some years later Allen Ginsberg when asked who his favorite prose writer was said: "Dale Herd."  Herd put out three collections of stories in the 1970s that solidified his reputation as a writer's writer, or a writer's writer's writer.

And then no more books until more recently when a portion of his novel Dreamland Court was made into a chapbook (I posted about it here). Until now.

Coffee House Press has released Empty Pockets: New and Selected Stories, a book I just read from cover to cover and couldn't have been more satisfied when I finished the last one. Herd is still one of the great prose stylists and most economical of story tellers (some of his stories are half a page) and a master of creating characters and the lives they live, and the world they live them in, with a simple page long monologue or a page and a half of dialogue, or less.

Here's a perfect example, the first story in Early Morning Wind and now Empty Pockets:


She had a kid asleep in the bedroom. I asked her if she wanted to ball and she said yes. She got her gun six times. I told her I was selling my car and all my belongings and buying a sailboat and sailing to Australia. I said she could go but she'd have to pay. How much she said. A dollar thirty-seven I said. She said not bad. Then she said how much for Eric. I said the thousand dollars.

This Sunday, May 10th, I will be lucky enough to be sharing a bill (reading from my new book) with Dale, who will be reading from Empty Pockets (along with poet Lewis Warsh reading from his new book as well) at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street at 7PM and admission is free. Dale's presence makes this an historic event, hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Gerard was one of the sons of one of my cousins. I remember him as a boy and as a man I didn't know as well as I might have, had I been around more when he and his brothers and cousins were growing up, but knew well enough to understand why people remember him as a "kind" and "loving" and "loyal" and good man.

The photo above shows him with some of his cousins on his mother's side (the Lally clan) who were able to make it to a 2011 reunion down the Jersey shore in Belmar (there were more than twice as many who couldn't make it).

He's to the right on the second step looking to his right, where at the end of that step sits my daughter, Caitlin, with her hand on the shoulder of my youngest, Flynn, then thirteen.

Death can be a terrible blow, especially for those closest to the deceased who are left behind. No matter when it occurs, but significantly more terrible when it feels like a life has been cut short.

Gerard is and will continue to be missed deeply by his family and friends, but just as deep is the gratitude they have and will continue to have for having had him in their lives as long as they did.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Free and open to the public. This Sunday, 7PM at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street in Manhattan. I'll be reading from my new book Swing Theory, Dale Herd will be reading from his new book Empty Pockets: New and Selected Stories, and Lewis Warsh from his new book Alien Abduction.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


"I was only afraid when I didn't have words for what I meant, or
           when the words I had were wrong."

—Donald Berger (from the poem "I Forget" translated by Christoph Konig) 

Monday, May 4, 2015


There were a lot of shootings of black college students in those days, like at Jackson State, but this was the white establishment killing its own, possible because the rightwing Republican mouthpieces and propaganda convinced enough confused and miseducated that "hippies" and other war protesters were not only dangerously traitorous but almost of a different species, much as they continue to do today...anyway, it's a day that lives in my heart for the cutting down of such young and vulnerable's Neil Young's take (thanks to my friend Ruth Perez):

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Two nights before the reading at Rutgers I took part in, old friend Bruce Andrews did a solo reading of his work at NYU and was caught by someone (sorry I don't know exactly who) in a similar pose to the shots of me in the last post, with another glass wall as backdrop, what a blessing that we're both still not only breathing but writing and sharing our work with others. Too late to stop now.

Friday, May 1, 2015


The reading I took part in last night was not only a delight but a revelation. Thomas Devaney reading from his new poetry collection Runaway Goat Cart and Joanna Fuhrman reading from her new book The Year of Yellow Butterflies were distinct in their approaches to their poetry and their presentation of them, and yet their work connected in such deeply revelatory ways that I felt my work engaged with and contributed to, so much so it felt, for me, like a giant collaborative effort (one questioner asked afterward if we had chosen as a group beforehand work that would create such a similar effect that it seemed so obviously interconnected and equally resonant).

I was honored and grateful to be included in this event and for the attentive and appreciative audience of students, friends and fellow poets. Unfortunately I wasn't sent any photos of Joanna or Tom reading, but here are three that were taken of me, the first by the wonderful poet and friend Stella Kamakaris and the other two by another New Jersey poet and close friend whose work I also love, Rachel E. Dikem: