Thursday, August 16, 2018

ARETHA R.I.P.

In my late teens, from 1958 to 1961, I spent a lot of nights drinking wine in a paper bag sitting on the sidewalk with my back to a metal grate out of which came live music from the bandstand directly below the grate in the Village Gate which was a nightclub in a basement under what was called a "bum hotel" in those days.

I had a crush on Nina Simone who played there regularly, and when I had the money I'd sometimes get into the club to hear her sing and play piano. I was playing piano in less well paying clubs in those days and someone hipped me to a new act performing there that I should get inside to catch, so I got the dust (short for "gold dust"—one of the many hip terms my fellow jazz musicians used for money in those days) and went in to see this teenage girl with the cool name Aretha play and sing.

She and I were the same age and in my memory we were both sixteen or seventeen, so it would have been before her first album came out, but maybe we were eighteen and this was her tour for it, either way I'd never heard her. When she sat down to play I dug her basic blues chops, and then she opened her mouth and filled that little space so powerfully that all the usual nightclub chatter that went on during sets and musicians hated, but was common in those days, ceased.

I remember it just being her and the piano, alone on that stage, blowing everyone's minds with the intensity of her talent. I never stopped listening to her and never stopped being blown away by her talent. Rest In Peace Aretha.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

EIGHTH GRADE

For his first feature film, the multi-talented Bo Burnham wrote and directed EIGHTH GRADE, and mostly nails it. Lots of great editing and storytelling and music and set ups in the story of a girl's last days of middle school.

Elsie Fisher gives an incredibly committed performance that spans the spectrum of emotional and psychological moods with comic and poignant and enlightening moments of pure originality. She should win an Oscar for Best Actress.

Monday, August 13, 2018

BURT BRITTON R.I.P.

Burt Britton was a good friend of mine. I'm not posting his photo here because the only one I could find online isn't great, and because he was a very private guy in his last several decades, and because his true and best self-portrait is the book he produced, called SELF-PORTRAIT, which changed his life.

Burt was an ex-marine and an actor before he became a fixture at The Strand bookstore in lower Manhattan in the 1970s when I was raising my oldest boy on my own there and scuffling to get by. One of the ways I paid the bills was writing book reviews for papers like The Village Voice and The Washington Post. As a result, a lot of authors and poets sent me their books or their publishers did. I'd sell bags of these books to the many booksellers in the book district which The Strand was the heart of.

I'd usually stick one rare book in each bag to entice the booksellers who'd buy the bag as though they hadn't noticed that one book was actually worth something. Burt's station was in the basement among the rare books. When I approached the counter one day in 1975 with my five-year-old son, Miles, Burt said, "You're the poet Michael Lally," which surprised me since I wasn't famous.

He disappeared in some book stacks and came back with copies of the several books of mine that existed then, to sign for him. After I did, he pulled out a bound sketch book and opened it to a blank page and asked me to make a self-portrait. I gave Flynn the pen and he drew a picture of himself (in patched jeans) writing his name on the figure's shirt, then I sketched a thought bubble coming from the figure's mind and put a little sketch of my bespectacled face inside it.

When we were done, Burt flipped through the sketch book showing me self-portraits by famous writers—e.g. Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Susan Sontag, and Kurt Vonnegut etc.—and unfamous ones like me. It turned out everyone in publishing knew of Burt's sketchbooks full of similar self-portraits and wanted to publish a collection of them. But they all wanted to do just the famous ones, and Burt refused to let anyone publish them unless they included everyone.

Eventually Random House agreed to his terms and the book came out in 1976. It was an instant success and garnered a full blast of media attention (meaning newspapers and network and local television) turning Burt into a star. He was married to the late, model-beautiful Corby (before there were model opportunities for stunning African-American women, their wedding celebration if I remember correctly in their apartment on a New Years Eve), but the publicity created challenges as women came out of the woodwork to entice this manly ex-marine book loving bright and ruggedly handsome newborn celebrity, and they divorced.

One story he shared was about the late Margaret Trudeau, the ex-(I think at the time) wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, and yes, mother of the current Canadian Prime Minister. She came to New York and called Burt from her hotel room relentlessly until he went and spent some time with her there.

He also was approached by a book lover who thought his newfound fame could help make a success of a new bookstore they opened near the old Whitney Museum on upper Madison Avenue. It was called Books & Company and one of their first window displays included all my books at that time (it was before smart phones and I didn't own a camera and never thought to ask anyone to take a photo so...).

Burt was now in a position to order any books he wanted, to sell in the store, but he loved too many books and before long the upstairs office spaces were crowded with boxes of unopened books, as was eventually the room where readings were given (I did a few there), and all the profits were being plowed back into Burt's obsession, so his partner bought him out.

As fame faded and the bookstore everyone thought of as his wasn't his anymore, he retreated into almost the life of a hermit (though eventually fortunately he and Corby got back together before she passed a few years ago). In 1982 I moved to L.A. with Mies and my oldest child, Caitlin, but when in New York (and after moving back East in '99) our mutual friend the late poet Ray DiPalma would call Burt and the three of us would sit in the living room of Ray's apartment and talk books and acting (Ray had done some theater acting too, like Burt) and share stories about writers and poets and book people and actors we'd known.

We did that the last time not too many years ago, and afterward Burt walked me to the subway and hugged me goodbye. He had a gray beard by then and wore dark glasses and a knit cap and a seemingly too large overcoat and in general looked like an anonymous vagabond. But Burt was always uniquely iconic, so even incognito you couldn't miss the power of his presence. He was someone no one who met him at any point in his life ever forgot. Including me. And I never will.

[here's a link to his NY Times obit]

Sunday, August 12, 2018

ANOTHER GRATIFYING EXPERIENCE

The charity events at Author's Night in Amagansett, Long Island, yesterday make me grateful to still be around to have such experiences. And more than grateful to longtime friend Alec Baldwin for making me a part of it (out of the close to one hundred authors signing their books, I was the only one with a book of poems).

Alec made sure I was seated next to him and his amazing wife Hilaria (both of whom had great books (which I highly recommend) to sign (You Can't Spell America Without Me and The Living Clearly Method), and every now and then he'd shout something like: "Make sure you buy my friend Michael Lally's new book. He's the greatest living poet, and pretentious too!" or some other Irish humor that always makes me feel at home, literally.

Many people heeded his advice, and other folks bought a copy of Another Way To Play because they had a family member who likes and/or writes poetry, or in a few instances, because they were old friends or ex-students I hadn't seen in years. (All proceeds of the tickets to get into the events and the sales of books went to the libraries out at the end of Long Island.)

It was extremely crowded, and the line for Alec to sign his (written in the first-person persona of 45 with, and according to Alec mostly by, Kurt Andersen) was huge when the event began, and never diminished for the over two-and-a-half hours Alec engaged each buyer in conversation and jokes and posed for selfies etc. (it's hard work being a celebrity, as I've learned from being around him and others over the years).

It was an honer to have been included for this charity extravaganza which raised over 350,000 dollars. As usual, I feel like an awfully lucky guy. Here's some photos taken by Rachel E. Diken who drove me all the way out there and back and took photos and footage for the documentary she's making about me and my life and poetry (and needs more funding to complete):



Thursday, August 9, 2018

IN THE SUMMERTIME

me at the Jersey shore (Belmar, 18th Avenue beach)
c. 1946 or 47, my sister Irene to my left
(the only one of my six siblings still alive)
and to my right I think it's my cousin Kathi

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

ANOTHER FAVORITE QUOTE

"Choice is always more pleasing than anything necessary."  —Gertrude Stein (copied it into a journal in 1974 but unfortunately didn't include the book of hers I got it from)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME

If you need a break from reality, THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME is a pretty funny little escape pod. An action-hero-buddy picture where the buddies are women (as is the director, Susanna Fogel, who also co-wrote the script), it turns a lot of buddy-movie tropes on their heads, and Mia Kunis and Kate McKinnon as the stars, are an unexpectedly perfectly matched duo.

McKinnon is as hilarious on  on the big screen as she is on the small (and Jane Curtain and Paul Reiser amplify the fun with their straight faced characterizations of her character's unfazably devoted parents). And Kunis's unassuming beauty and self-deprecating character are the perfect foil to Sam Heughan's unassuming beauty (got to be the handsomest man on screens anywhere). Their screen charisma would be enough for me, but they're also terrific performances. Fun flick.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

BLINDSPOTTING

I saw BLINDSPOTTING a week ago, and it still resonates. Despite some obviousness here and there, this film has more scenes I've never seen in a movie before (and I watch several movies a week and have since I was a boy of six, seventy years ago) than any movie I've seen in years.

Written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who also star as the "white" and "black" characters whose friendship drives the plot of the story about the impact of gentrification on them and their neighborhood in Oakland California, much of the dialogue is rap (Diggs was in the original cast of HAMILTON), and all of it is politically and socially relevant without being too preachy or self-righteous.

The cast, especially Diggs, Casal, Janina Gavankar, and Jasmine Cephus Jones, are excellent. The movie is at turns funny, tragic, suspenseful (the tension in some scenes was so overwhelming I had the impulse to look away), poignant, engaging, and enlightening, and knocked me out, despite whatever artistic flaws my critical mind kept searching for.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The final hours of the Summer Drive for Rachel E. Diken's documentary film about me and my poetry have arrived...
Donate $100 or more by Midnight TONIGHT and receive Special Thanks credit in the film! 
www.gofundme.com/lallydocumentary


Thursday, August 2, 2018

ONCE: THE THREE BOYOS

me, my longtime friend the great poet/author/songwriter/etc.Terence Winch
and Joe Biden, sometime in the 1980s
(photo by Susan Campbell)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

DON'T WORRY: HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT

I love John Callahan's cartoons, and have since they first began appearing. And I loved his story, an alcoholic who became a quadriplegic after a drunken accident, lost all hope, then got sober and became one of the most widely impactful cartoonists of his time.

Now Gus Van Sant has made a movie based on Callahan's memoir of the same name, and it is the best movie about recovery from active alcoholism ever. The first movie (or TV show) where we get to see people in recovery laughing instead of always looking desperately glum, using the gallows humor common among all kinds of survivors, and in a way that lets everyone in on the joke.

And though I often think Joaquin Phoenix is miscast (and the hair in this flick doesn't help), I always appreciate his total commitment to the characters he plays. And he certainly gets into playing his version of Callahan with his usual intensity. But the real revelation in the terrific cast is Jonah Hill, who deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for this one.

As does Van Sant for the screenplay and directing. [Full disclosure, I wrote some of the voiceover for one of Van Sant's previous masterpieces, DRUGSTORE COWBOY, and Gus took the photo used for the cover of my new book ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY.] See this movie!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The documentary film being made about me and my poetry, by Rachel E. Diken, is holding a summer funding drive. Donate $100 or more by this Friday, August 3rd and receive Special Thanks credit in the final cut! www.gofundme.com/lallydocumentary


Monday, July 30, 2018

RON DELLUMS: REST IN POWER

Ron Silliman's tribute on FB says it better than I could:

"RIP Ron Dellums
This man had an enormous positive impact on my life, getting me released from the legal obligation of conscientious objector's service after I'd been illegally inducted in 1972 (I stayed doing the work in the prison movement for another 6 years because it was good work, but not having the Selective Service to worry about was huge). I once heard Nelson Mandela say (at the Oakland Coliseum) that the only reason he was still alive was Ron Dellums. It was Dellums who recognized that the student community and the black community in Berkeley had the same interest with regards to Vietnam and the draft, and in that observation he transformed East Bay politics forever."


Saturday, July 28, 2018

COMING UP

On Saturday, August 11th, I'll be taking part in a charity event on Long Island, where me and many more-famous-than-me authors will sign copies of their new books, 5PM at 555 Montouk Highway, Amagansett NY. Here's the link.

Friday, July 27, 2018

ANOTHER GREAT EVENING OF POETRY

The event at Poets House last night was delightful. I got to hear some great poetry by the other readers, and share some of my work, make new friends, and be with long time friends (some I hadn't seen since the 1970s!). Here's a photo, by Phillipa Scott, of me reading that gives a sense of the beautiful setting for the event (the audience was sitting outside under the sky facing the exhibit of books of poetry published this year so far...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

PS:

If you're planning on attending the event tomorrow evening (Thursday July 26th) at Poets House (10 River Terrace) where I'll be reading from my new collection of poetry (and three others reading from theirs), the reading part starts at 7PM, but just found out there's a reception that starts at 6PM if you want to come early and say hello.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

OLD FAVORITE QUOTE

"We're always choosing between giving love or withholding love."    —Hubert "Cubby" Selby (in conversation with me sometime in the early 1980s, yesterday would have been his 90th birthday)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

JUST A REMINDER (IT'S THIS THURSDAY EVENING)

On July 26th I'll be reading from my new book, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017, (Joy Ladin, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Roberto Harrison will be reading from their new books as well) at 7PM at Poets House, 10 River Terrace NYC

Saturday, July 21, 2018

ANOTHER FAVORITE OLD QUOTE

"Perhaps, after a time, we'll have poems that will be read at the expense of no one since that which we are bringing to word would be based, not on what we've done, but on what we need to do."
—Tina Darragh (from a paper written for a poetry class in 1972)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

ONCE UPON A TIME

This photo was taken by the late Len Randolph when he was head of the Literature branch of the National Endowment For The Arts in 1972 when I lived in DC and he was a good friend. I was a 29-year-old college teacher half way through my four year stint at that profession and, with my long locks and premature silver streak, about to get a hair cut for the first time in many years.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My dear longtime friend Suzanne Burgess Greco took this photo inside the Shakespeare And Company bookstore in Paris, pointing out that her friend's (me) book was on a shelf with a John Ashbery book...a giant burst of gratitude for my newest—ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017—being in that iconic Paris book shop, and for being displayed with my longtime friend John Ashbery's posthumous latest, and for Suzanne taking a photo and her being in Paris, one of my favorite places...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS is the fourth documentary in recent weeks to catch my attention and obviously a lot of other folks too. I remember the background story to this one. I was living in lower Manhattan when the tabloids exploded with the story of twins separated at birth who found each other on an upstate New York campus, and then the next day the news that there was a third.

The triplets became famous overnight, literally, and every aspect of their identities that they all shared became newsworthy, it seemed. And that was pretty much all I knew or remembered about them. This doc follows the rest of the story through less celebratory parts of their lives and eventually exposes and explores even darker elements.

All in all, it's a compelling story, though not done as well as RBG and WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?—the documentaries about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Fred Rogers. These are great films, as well as great stories. THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS—and the fourth recent doc to gain an audience, WHITNEY—aren't as good as films, and definitely aren't as uplifting.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY

Went to the memorial/celebration of Barbara Barg's life this afternoon at The Bowery Poetry Club and was overwhelmed with the ways in which everyone who shared a story about, or read a poem by, or sang a song by, Barb contributed to conjuring her up and into the room.

Though the highlight for me was the performance by Homer Erotic, one of Barg's bands, which it turns out hadn't played in eighteen years but sounded like they'd been playing gigs together every day for all those years and still had the same energy and stage charisma of the old days.

I got to see many dear friends, including several I haven't seen in person for decades. It filled my heart and gave me new fond memories, as well as reaffirming Barbara Barg's importance to so many and the world (if you don't know about her, find out). Thanks to Maggie Dubris, Bob Holman, and Rose Lesniak for organizing it and to everyone who participated.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

ONCE

A World War Two photo of me in my mother's arms surrounded by family: my Irish immigrant grandmother, who lived down the street, farthest to the viewer's left, then my great Aunt Allie, who live with us then, my oldest brother Tommy in uniform, next to my second oldest Buddy who would be in uniform soon, in front of them my oldest sister Joan, cousins Rod and Mickie, with my third oldest brother Robert down front, next to my second oldest sister Irene on our father's knee (in the fedora), behind them my maternal Grandma Dempsey, and next to my mother and me my Aunt Peggy (Mickie's mother) who lived down the street with our Irish immigrant grandparents, and my Aunt Mary (Rod's mother) who lived next door with her husband John, only some of our clan from the neighborhood...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

FYI

On July 26th I'll be reading from my new book, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017, (Joy Ladin, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Roberto Harrison will be reading from their new books as well) at 7PM at Poets House, 10 River Terrace NYC

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

NEW FAVORITE QUOTE

"Everyone is finally out of the Thai Cave. Let this serve as inspiration for those of us who feel trapped by the politics of darkness. We need a rescue mission in November. Air tanks filled with votes. Let us breathe again and fill our eyes with righteous light. Faith is a good thing and so is goodness."
—Ethelbert Miller

Monday, July 9, 2018

MIDDAY MINI-RANT

I see a lot of friends on FB (including poets and academics who have no trouble with the most difficult passages in literature) ranting and/or laughing about this section of a speech the con artist gave, as if—or perhaps actually meaning—they can't interpret it. But his supporters get it, and it isn't difficult for me to decipher. He's saying he can break audience-size records without playing a musical instrument or a sport, just using his brain and his mouth.

It's garbled and almost inarticulate to many, including me initially, but listen to people talking these days or read their comments online and it's clear the language in daily use is becoming more and more garbled and inarticulate by our old standards, and he represents the worst of that, and yet he is communicating his meanings to many, by repetition, gesture, cliche, innuendo, symbols, shorthand, etc...

I got angry during W's first four years as many friends on the left laughed and made fun of his apparent lack of intellect, while he was strengthening his support and carrying out policies that hurt poor and working people and helped the richest among us, the standard Republican agenda since Reagan (and before in milder ways). And then many leftists and liberals acted surprised when W won another four years of doing even worse damage.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

ANOTHER READING

Great to read today with a favorite writer, poet, and person: Elinor Nauen. If you don't know her work, you should. I was a little off but she was all on, and Sanjay Agnohotri's introductions made us both feel humbled. Old friends and new, and then outside to one of the most beautiful days of the year. Grateful for it, despite the ongoing bad news elsewhere.

WHITNEY

Saw the documentary WHITNEY tonight with two friends and found it a mixed bag. I was moved by her stunning beauty on the big screen once again and her exquisite voice, yet, of course, deeply saddened by her decline and death, though I knew that going in.

There's only a few revelations that were surprising. But the depth of some people's venality and greed in taking advantage of her is still disturbing. And the damage done to young souls that lives on through them, and often for generations, is totally depressing to see exposed so blatantly.

Still glad I saw it, but not happy about it.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF LIFE

Me signing my new poetry collection, Another Way To Play, at the reading I did in DC a few weeks ago. The upside is the joy this book's existence is giving me, the downside is I look like a very old balding happy baby in this shot (and can't remember who took it)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

HENRY BUTLER R.I.P.

I met Henry Butler, the great New Orleans piano player, at a Hollywood party, I think in the early 1980s but my memory isn't always correct these days. One or the other of us had sat down at the piano and started playing and then the other played and then we talked for hours.

He gave me his card and asked me to call him as he was staying around L.A. for a while, so I did and we hung out and played and talked and shared our life stories and all that good friendship stuff until he left town. (I think I still have the card somewhere.)

Over the next several years we talked on the phone and I saw him when he was back in L.A. for gigs. But I lost touch sometime later and hadn't spoken to him in years, then heard today that he'd passed on yesterday. Henry was one of the most unique piano players and human beings I've ever known (he was blind almost from birth, but was a photographer as well as a pianist!). He will be greatly missed.

[here's his obituary from the New Orleans paper]

Sunday, July 1, 2018

LATE NIGHT MINI-RANT

As I've aged, my connection with little kids—infants and toddlers and pre-schoolers—has grown stronger, their smiles at me broader and their eye contact filled with fascination or, as I'd like to think, understanding of our places on the circle of life as closer than with the rest of humanity...

But in these past days and weeks and more, it has become deeply saddening to make that connection because it evokes the reality of so many other infants and toddlers and pre-schoolers forcefully and cruelly separated from their parents and other relatives to satisfy people known as "the base"—or "rightwing" or trump supporters or most republicans—who have been so easily frightened into believing such heartless tactics are somehow going to make them safer....

we'll see how safe they are when traumatized children grow into vengeful adults, and who will pay the ultimate price....

Saturday, June 30, 2018

TODAYS PROTESTS

Here's the site to find the rally or march nearest you today, Saturday June 30th, for the FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER protest.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

AS TIME GOES BY

me and my old dear friend Marty Brandel
walking down my street a few months ago

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR

This documentary about the late Fred Rogers—"Mister Rogers" to most of us—is the antidote to the bad news we've been inundated with. I saw it tonight in a theater on the big screen and highly recommend viewing it that way, so you can see deep into Mister Rogers' eyes and feel the depth of his compassion. Bring Kleenex.

Monday, June 25, 2018

OCEAN'S 8

OCEAN'S 8 isn't the "feminist" response to the OCEAN'S 11 franchise, but it is the female version of those earlier movies, containing many of the same tropes, just feminized, and even the convention of two top stars carrying the bulk of the action (the male versions being George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the female ones Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett) but supported by a cast so independently talented half or more of the pleasure of watching these flicks is the actors riffing through their roles with skill and charm.

In this case the cast is smaller (I assume intended to leave room for sequels 9 and 10) and the two leads not as familiarly cozy (it's almost impossible to not see Pitt and Clooney as actual mutually teasing buddies in real life, whether they are or not, a little more challenging with Bullock and Blanchett), but nonetheless the film worked for me as entertaining and fulfilling in the way of a familiar but favorite dessert. So I say enjoy.

[PS: the direction is smooth and the pacing well done, so credit to director Gay Ross and his editor, and the writing the same, so credit to Ross's co-screenwriter Olivia Milch (full disclosure, I've been around her off and on since she was a baby and was always impressed with her independent spirit and intelligence so not surprised)]

Saturday, June 23, 2018

PRIDE TIME

I'll miss the Pride Parade in NYC tomorrow, but I was at the first one in Washington DC in 1972 after I had come out as "gay" for humane and political and historic reasons, since previously I'd always considered myself "straight" (though I always rejected labels and still think they are mostly problematic) after having had my first sexual and romantic relationships with men, including a part-time affair with a beautiful man named Greg Millard. I wrote this poem to him back then. He eventually died of AIDs, as did others I was lovers with (somehow it passed me by). By the late 1970s I had returned to being involved sexually and romantically with just women, but I am proud of all of my past relationships including with men and women both "cis" and "trans" as well as those who didn't label themselves or would now be considered "fluid" (as I considered myself now and then back in the day, but didn't have the word for it, I identified myself in my bio in one gay poetry anthology back then as "pansexual") and have since 1972 considered myself part of the "queer" community, even if some of that community doesn't see me that way.



WATCHING YOU WALK AWAY

For Greg Millard

Today
your back, cocked hat, thick clothes for cold

the way you turned around to look again for
what? It wasn’t there last night
We were there, ‘it’ wasnt, why,      why not

The world is all around us, even at night, in bed
in each others arms
distilled & injected into the odor we leave on each others

backs & thighs, between the knots & shields of all we lay
down in the dark to pick up in the morning
I like your brown eyes when you talk
you know who you are, I like your knowing this
maybe that’s not enough


Let’s talk, go to plays, see each other sometimes just to
see each other
If we lie down in each others bodies again
let it be for the music we hold

not the music we might make


(C) 2018 Michael Lally in Another Way To Play

Friday, June 22, 2018

ANOTHER GREAT NIGHT

Last night the event at unnameable books in Brooklyn was totally satisfying, seeing dear old friends and making new ones, hearing good poetry, good music, and being surrounded by creative folks, my people. Great way to celebrate the summer solstice and recharge the soul and heart batteries for the continuing struggle to create a world where love is the choice.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

PAT LALLY FREEMAN R.I.P.

My cousin Pat Lally (later Pat Lally Freeman) was fourteen when I was born, so her face was already familiar to me when this high school graduation photo was taken. And though the last time I saw her she was in her eighties, it was that same warm smile she flashed, the one that always made me so happy to see as a boy, a young man, and then an old man.

Every time I saw her, my heart overflowed. She was a highly intelligent, independent, and grounded individual, and a terrific writer who shared a wonderful piece of autobiographical prose with me (and others) about ten or so years ago that clarified some of her part of our clan's story (and is now in my archives with a few letters from her). Like me, she was fascinated with our extended family's history, and remembered and researched more than most.

Though she will be missed by many, Pat made it to ninety and passed surrounded by loved ones. And she will always live in our hearts, as will her contagious smile.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

MIX UP

Turns out the reading I'm taking part in at unnameable books isn't next Thursday but actually tomorrow, June 21st, with two other poets and a band on the bill, 8PM, 600 Vanderbilt Avenue (corner of St. Mark's) in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn...if you can make it I'd love to see some familiar faces...

THREE ADEPT WAYS OF MAKING THE POINT




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

sorrow song

for the eyes of the children,
the last to melt,
the last to vaporize,
for the lingering
eyes of the children, staring,
the eyes of the children of
buchenwald,
of viet nam and johannesburg,
for the eyes of the children
of nagasaki,
for the eyes of the children
of middle passage,
for cherokee eyes, ethiopian eyes,
russian eyes, american eyes,
for all that remains of the children,
their eyes,
staring at us, amazed to see
the extraordinary evil in
ordinary men.

Lucille Clifton, "sorrow song" from Next: New Poems. Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.
Source: Next: New Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1987)

Monday, June 18, 2018

JUST A REMINDER

The documentary Rachel E. Diken is making about my life and poetry has run out of funds and needs an infusion of money to continue, here's how to help: https://www.gofundme.com/lallydocumentary

and here's her recent interview with Ethelbert Miller:

Sunday, June 17, 2018

HAPPINESS TO ALL

I want to wish a happy day to all those who
never had or knew their fathers…or whose
fathers were unkind, or even cruel to them…
may your day be filled with love and affection


...and to those who parented the young and 
old alike who needed it and had no one else
to turn to, may your day be as happy as the
hearts of those who benefited from your love...

Friday, June 15, 2018

FIRST LOVE

Went to the opening of Charles Mee's new play, FIRST LOVE, and was swept away by the experience. The direction by Kim Weild makes the abrupt transitions in this story of "first love" coming to two seniors easy and more subtle than the writing indicates, and the acting is worth the price of admission.

Michael O'Keefe—a dear friend for many decades whose acting on stage and screen I have been observing since he made his initial impact in THE GREAT SANTINI—has never been better, displaying so many emotional variations that his performance becomes a master class in the art of stage acting. Especially when matched by Angelina Fiordellsi, both of them out pacing each other in the bravery of their performances.

Taylor Harvey, making her New York stage debut after being cast from an open call, in what could have been a thankless mostly silent role of observing spirit, transcends the limitations of the role to add an essential element to counter balance the two-character heart of the play. Her stage presence is so ethereal, the aura her character casts seemed to add a glow to the stage when she was on it.

Some of the credit also definitely goes to the costumer Theresa Squire and the set creator Edward Pierce, whose work enhances the story with flourishes of wit and economy. And all this in the intimate confines of The Cherry Lane Theater. If you dig live stage productions and are any where near Manhattan between now and July 8th, this one's totally worth experiencing.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

NOW AND THEN

Doug Lang, Terence Winch, me in DC in the 1970s
Terence Winch, me, Doug Lang in DC in 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

THE HUNDRED FOOTJOURNEY

In honor of the late Anthony Bourdain, I watched THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY last night for the first time. I skipped it when it came out because of the terrible title and my guess that Helen Mirren, despite her acting genius, was a bit miscast. The title is still uninviting, and Mirren is miscast yet she mostly pulls off the role of a brittle French matron.

But like many movies that feature food and cooking as the central metaphor, this flick is sensually satisfying in so many ways it was worth watching. Part of the pleasure was also the delicious leading man, Manish Doyal, and his romantic partner Charlotte Le Bon. Another was the great actor Om Puri, who not only held his own with Mirren but pretty much stole the film in terms of performances.

Despite a predictable and even contrived script (a Steven Knight adaptation), the pacing and story development work because of director Lasse Halstrom, who makes even the obvious appealing. Check it out if you've never seen it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

JUST A MEMORY

I remember reading many decades ago a study that was done about people who had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge attempting suicide but somehow survived the fall and were rescued. As I remember it, every one admitted that as soon as their bodies left the bridge they regretted doing it. Most who jumped, of course, did not survive, so no knowing what they were thinking.

Monday, June 11, 2018

YESTERDAY

thanks to Bianca Scimmia for this photo of me reading from Another Way To Play at Politics and Prose in DC yesterday
 evening, great event (reading with Terence Winch) and great seeing so many old familiar faces from my DC days (1969-1975) and beyond....and thanks all for coming out...

Saturday, June 9, 2018

DON'T LET THE BASTIDS KILL YA (WEEKEND MINI-RANT)

Though I didn't know who Kate Spade was when I heard of her suicide, many friends who only knew her from her public persona were devastated by it, or angry at her and devastated for the thirteen-year-old daughter she left behind. But I was surprisingly devastated when I learned Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide, even though I only knew him from his writings and his CNN show where he came across as a great embracer of life's pleasures and challenges.

Though they may have been part of the elite economically, I still see them as victims of the disastrous decline of the social environment caused in great part by the winner-takes-all form of "capitalism" that has turned our flawed democracy into a rancid oligarchic kleptocracy where human life is subservient to the relentless accumulation of useless wealth (useless except in the service of false pride and the illusion of control) for the one percent and soul-sucking despair for the rest of us.

Like victims of the opioid epidemic, or the suicide epidemic, anxiety and despondency are the legacy of the devaluation of human life caused by the drain-the-99%-of-all-financial-and-emotional-security-for-the-benefit-of-the-1% (even if some among that 1% fall prey to the same anxiety and despondency). The Resistance has to start, I believe, with not letting the bastards kill us—no matter what.

YESTERDAY

poets Terence Winch, me, and Doug Lang
June 7th, 2018
[photo by Sandra Rottmann
enhanced by Robert Zuckerman
who labeled the end product:
 "Don't Fuck with these Bastards"]

Thursday, June 7, 2018

BACK IN THE DAY

Terence Winch and I sometime in the 1970s
(don't remember who took the photo)
we will be reading from our new books
this Sunday June 10th at 5PM
at the Politics & Prose bookstore
on Connecticut Avenue 
in Washington DC


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

GEORGE TAKEI DOES IT AGAIN

Retweeted George Takei (@GeorgeTakei):
Trump disinvited Superbowl winning Philly Eagles to the White House over concerns some of the players had refused to come. In related news, Becky Sullivan won't go to the dance on Saturday if Shelley is showing up, even if she apologizes for what she said about her hair.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

FYI

For anyone who's in the Baltimore-DC area, I'm reading from my new book ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY, and Terence Winch from his, THE KNOWN UNIVERSE next Sunday, June 10th at 5PM at Politics & Prose in DC, more info here.