Thursday, March 23, 2017

ONCE UPON A LAST MONDAY


A lot of photos taken last Monday at The Gotham Comedy Club Poetry In Motion reading/performance, but these are two of my favorites: me reading from my 1982 book ATTITUDE, and hanging at our table with poet and dear friend Rachel Diken, who also read, my oldest son Miles, and his girlfriend Hannah...

Monday, March 20, 2017

ANOTHER GREAT NIGHT

For those who came out for this tonight, thank you, and for those who missed it hope to see you next time. The event was an explosion of creative energy: pointed, powerful, poignant, and often funny as hell. But most of all inspiring and comforting. Because everyone on the bill brought the kind of compassionate heart coupled with no-bullshit realism that make us a community of not bleeding-heart liberals but kick-ass love-generators. Let's keep making it happen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

CHUCK BERRY R.I.P.

It's always been my intention, since I started this blog, to bring my personal experiences and connections to some topics of the day that catch my attention. I am so happy that many news and Internet outlets are referring to Chuck Berry in their obituaries as "The Father of Rock'n'Roll" because he was. His influence on me was enormous as his music hit the radio just as I was hitting puberty.

I posted the photo of the cover of the first anthology I had poetry in, CAMPFIRES OF THE RESISTANCE (Bobbs-Merrill 1971), because in my bio for it the first thing I mention is the influence of Chuck Berry. I attended the U. of Iowa Writers Workshop on The G.I. Bill and received an MFA in Poetry in 1968 and the title of the collection I submitted for my thesis was "Sittin' Down At A Rhythm Review." Which I thought summarized the workshop experience for me. Most of the professors had no idea what the title referenced.

But here's a video of Berry singing and playing the song that title came from—"Roll Over Beethoven"—in 1958, several years after the song came out, and as usual he is working with the house band, or local musicians (in an obviously foreign venue as the way he does his intro implies) and expects them to keep up with him as he sings his own lyrics and melody in a way unique to this performance (very much like a jazz musician, and like many rock'n'rollers who would follow in his footsteps, in one way or another, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan among many), listen to the way he changes the ending chords to minor ones distinct from the record...

His performances alone were templates for how to showcase rock'n'roll guitar virtuosity, and if that's all he had done would have given him the right to be called "The Father of Rock'n'Roll" but listen to the lyrics and the chords and the melody and acknowledge he was the great innovator who combined genres of earlier music—jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, pop and even country—into a guitar driven explosion of exuberance that changed not only music but culture and society...forever.

Long live rock'n'roll!  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

MIDDAY MINI-RANT

In 1981 I received my second National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant for Poetry. It was the start of the Reagan Era and the right-wingers were encouraged to start dismantling government programs that didn't directly benefit the wealthy and corporations. So two rightwing Republican Congressmen got up on the floor of Congress and called for the elimination of the NEA, and used my grant as their main reason for what was wrong with the federal government supporting the arts, saying it rewarded "pornography" because of my poem "My Life"—a ten page list of aspects of my life so far which included some graphic and at that time "deviant" sexual terms and what some consider "foul" language.

The problem with their subsequent campaign to use my poem as the impetus for outrage was that the parts they objected to were censored in newspapers and magazines and bleeped out on radio and TV, so no one could ever actually get what they were objecting to. Which is why the following year they used the visual arts to condemn the NEA, in particular the photo of a crucifix in a bucket of alleged urine. It was easier for people to use their imagination when they saw the image and become outraged, if they objected to the idea.

I had moved to L.A by that time and was called by the NEA to ask if I'd be willing to testify before a Congressional committee, but when they heard I was now on the other side of the country, they decided to save the expense of flying me back and putting me up and went with some East Coast visual artists and performing artists instead. But I remain proud and a little guilty at the fact that it was a poem of mine that was first trotted out to discredit the NEA. And by the way, my first grant from the NEA was in 1974 and was based on an earlier series of poems called "The South Orange Sonnets" that a Democratic Congressman praised on the floor of Congress and got mentioned in the Congressional Record where he called me "a major American poet."

Different strokes, as they used to say.

Friday, March 17, 2017

That's a photograph I took of my late cousin Paddy, who was the last Lally to live in the place behind him, an expanded version of the home my paternal grandfather, also Michael Lally, grew up in, in the late 1800s.
The cover of my first CD, WHAT YOU FIND THERE, designed by Jennifer Baxendale (recording of me reading my poetry in a studio outside L.A.) with my grandfather's birthplace, and a silhouette of me from a photo (taken by Rain Worthington) of me walking down Church Street in NYC in what would become known as Tribeca but back before anyone lived there legally, with my long hair and 1980s overcoat.
And the back of the CD. "Where Do We Belong"—an obviously very long poem—is about my Irish roots and first visit to the homeland. The poem is also in my book CANT BE WRONG.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

STILL AROUND

don't remember who took this photo
of Eve Brandstein & me in L.A. in the '80s
when we founded and ran a weekly poetry reading
(and monthly in NYC for a while)
called
POETRY IN MOTION
(it was called The Temple Street Poets originally
but then we had to move so changed the name
appropriately since we moved several more times before
ending up at Cafe Largo when it first opened
helping that club find an audience)
which was on hiatus for a while
until Eve brought it back in both L.A. & NYC
and added story tellers and comedians and music makers
and at which I will be reading some poems this coming Monday
and would love to see you there:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REALITY (MIDDAY MINI-RANT)

So the alleged "blizzard" didn't necessarily dump as much snow as they predicted everywhere, but it did some places. I looked out my window yesterday and thought it wasn't so bad. But when I went out in it, discovered otherwise. The snow was icy and very heavy and quite stubborn, hard to remove, if at all. And the wind had caused it to drift in odd ways that made the top steps of the porch of this old house I have an apartment in not look too bad, but the bottom steps invisible, just a big heap of whiteness impossible to gauge the depth of. I miscalculated and got a boot full of snow, and my boots are pretty high.

And it was slippery as hell frozen over, and cold "as a witch's tit" as they said when I was a boy, though for counter-sexism's sake we could say cold as the devil's dick I suppose. But somehow it also felt oddly peaceful and benign. The contradictions of Mother Nature, especially since her being so abused by the polluters and climate-change deniers. After many days of summer and/or spring weather, the animals and insects and trees and plants are now confused and most likely unable to sustain their usual rhythms and ecology.

Nonetheless, we are here, this is what's happening, and acceptance is the first step to changing it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

FYI

These shows are always rewarding, full of humor, insight, inspiration, artistry, poetry, storytelling, comedy, and much more....

Thursday, March 9, 2017

MY PATERNAL LINE

these are my paternal Irish immigrant grandparents
who lived down the street from us
c. 1952, not too long before they passed
with my oldest sibling Tommy
who'd become Father Campion, a Franciscan friar,
and the silhouette of I'm pretty sure my sister Irene on the porch behind them

my grandfather "Iron Mike" was a man of few words
my grandmother I remember dearly
she was kind and loving but also had a terrific wit
and self deprecating sense of humor

the last time I saw her was not long after my grandfather died
she told me she couldn't stick around
because she could hear my grandfather
giving the angels hell for not making his favorite dish right
she died not long after that

I loved them both

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MY MATERNAL LINE

the youngest of the women above is my mother in her teens
to her right is her mother, my grandma Dempsey,
and sitting is her mother, my great-grandma Ward.
I wish I knew what that is she's holding in her lap,
from their styles and ages I'd guess this was taken c. 1919
(they all belonged to the daughters of the grand army of the republic,which may be what the medals they're wearing were about, and may explain the tags (names?) on the bouquet(?) in my great grandma's lap)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

When I was a teenager, back in the 1950s, before James Baldwin became a household name in the later '60s, he was one of the handful of writers whose work I sought out and devoured, every word he published I looked for to read.

I saw him a few times in bars and knew people who knew him, but never met him. I was sad when later in the 1960s and early '70s his reputation suffered among young radicals, like I was, because he didn't seem militant and revolutionary enough for those times. And I was sorry when he passed.

Now, many decades later, Baldwin is being rediscovered by an even younger generation, through the Internet and now this documentary, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, directed by Paul Peck using mostly James Baldwin's words in interviews and at a famous debate at Oxford, and by Samuel L. Jackson reading from Baldwin's never completed last novel—mostly notes—and letters to his editor about it.

The film works so well, I think, because it excerpts short clips and passages of Baldwin talking, and snippets of historic news and TV footage, all edited to keep the jump-cut nature of modern-media audiences satisfied. The historical footage alone creates a reality hardly matched today.

I have only a few caveats, mostly about the leaving out of some historical truths that I have to assume Peck didn't want his audience to get distracted by, like that Malcolm X's assassins weren't white (the editing implies they were), or that Malcolm and Martin Luther King Jr. grew close at the end not only in person but in perspective as each shifted their focus from activity solely against racial oppression and more toward commonality and economic inequality. (Which I pointed out in my own writing from the moment King was assassinated after he decided to lead a march on Washington for that very cause).

But the power of Baldwin's words and intellectual charisma overwhelms I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO in a way that left me wanting more, and wanting to go back and reread Baldwin's books. My advice about this movie: Don't miss it.

Monday, March 6, 2017

ROBERT OSBORNE R.I.P.


I never met Robert Osborne, but I feel like I knew him just from watching him introduce movies on TCM for decades. He was so genial and likable while sharing his knowledge of the details, large and small, of the making of the movies he introduced, and then added a coda to, that I wished I could spend time with him personally, sharing movie stories and movie love.

In a way I felt like I did know him, just from his TV presence, which says a lot about his ability to communicate to his audience of classic-movie lovers, like me. And I liked him, too, because he was so committed to preserving the movies of the so-called "golden age" of the 1930s and '40s (as well as other decades), movies that I grew up on, either seeing them in theaters when I was a boy, or on TV when that device entered my world.

It was obvious he was ailing, from the ways he aged on camera and then hosted fewer and fewer movies over the past few years. So I was already missing him before the news broke today of his death (this my be the most thorough obituary, from Variety).

He was eighty-four and lived, it seemed, a life he loved and felt fulfilled by. What more can we ask? He will be sorely missed by his family and friends and fans, including me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

SEEMS LIKE YESTERDAY (ONLY NOT AS BAD)

me reading from my books of poems CANT BE WRONG c.1997 (when it came out) in a San Francisco bar I forget the name of,
the other reader that evening was Malachy McCourt, who was a delight as always...
no small hands that evening...

Friday, March 3, 2017

BIG LITTLE LIES

I don't know why Laura Dern isn't in this poster as she's the fourth actor in this quartet of powerful performers—along with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley—who make watching this show a treat, at least for me.

The story line is full of contrivances and the usual gratuitous sex (and the hint/threat of gratuitous violence), sort of a REAL WIVES OF SAN BERNADINO (or wherever it's supposed to be set) meets TRUE DETECTIVE.

Reese Witherspoon would just about steal the show if it weren't for Dern (full disclosure I knew her in my Hollywood days as a serious actor and a sincere person, who probably wouldn't even remember me). The two of them should have a spin off when this thing ends they're so much fun to watch as rivals.

But Kidman and Woodley hold their own. The editing and the rest of the acting is pretty good too. And the storyline, despite the obvious plot points and stereotyping, is almost one of those so bad it's good kind of campy narratives.

And all that after only the first two episodes. You go girls.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

MY FIRST BORN

My first born, darlin' daughter, Caitlin, at her high school graduation, can you believe she just turned 49?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

BEST RESPONSES TO SPEECH LAST NIGHT, ALL FROM GEORE TAKEI


You can't be "a country united against hate" when your AG is a racist, your VP attacks LGBTs, and your top advisor is a White Nationalist.


You're not making "communities safer for everyone" by doing the NRA's bidding and making it easier for mentally ill folks to buy guns.


Pay attention: "Access to healthcare" is not healthcare. I have "access" to Ryan Reynolds. But he's not covering me.


"We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism form inside America." Yes. And let's start by putting a stop to Radical White Supremacist Terror.