Tuesday, October 16, 2018


another way to play, POEMS 1960-2017, by michael lally (published by seven stories press), is one of the best books of 2018. Michael Lally, a fearless poet, with strength of narrative, creates an infinity figure 8 between himself & the reader. A love poet, protest poet, personal poet, chronicler of family history, poet of the "other."
A revolutionary poet, poet of many forms, erudite, fluent, honest: Here's the entire poem of "NOW I'M ONLY THIRTY-TWO": "from 5 to 30 it was / only women, then / for almost one year / it was only men / now it's like the first / 5 years and back / to everyone again." The last stanza of his poem, "DREAMING OF THE POTATO," shows his excellent ear: "With people there has been trouble / With the potato we have been happy."
"MY LIFE," p. 45-56, an epic, exhilarating rhapsody! Amen.
His poetry from whatever city he writes, from whatever place he lives, gives me solace: a kindred soul who stands up for the outsider, the poet, for me who often feels alone.
I like "SPORTS HEROES, COPS AND LACE," with its deepness of heart & dignity, love of the other & love of the father. There's a warmth in this poem & in the following "HOLIDAY HELL"; humor in "THE SOUND OF POLICE CARS."
In "WHERE DO WE BELONG," set in Ireland, he writes about Paddy Lally, his relative & guide to his Irish ancestors: "I fell in love with his / way & his manner & the fact that / he obviously was addicted as I / am to words on the page as they / express worlds in the minds & the / lives of others so far from us --" Words: a common bond. Michael Lally is a brilliant American poet!
10 15 18
Harry E. Northup

Monday, October 15, 2018


"Fill you bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity."

—Lao-tsu (from Tao te Ching
translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Sunday, October 14, 2018


What makes this Netflix limited (what we used to call "TV mini-") series worth watching is the acting, most consistently Emma Stone's. The storyline is so over the top, it's like this is the last season of some show that's been running for twelve years and the writers have so run out of ideas they finally "jump the shark"—only it's just ten episodes that use the settings and characters of classic film genres to explore their two main characters' characters, played by Stone and Jonah Hill.

Hill is terrific too, except for the film noir episode where he misses beats and Bogart-style opportunities in his (or the director's) choice to only play one note. Other than that, watching the two leads interact was delightful to me, especially since the supporting cast includes Sally Field playing a guru, Justin Theroux playing her mad scientist son and almost stealing the show, and Sonoyo Mizuno playing his co-scientist and lover in a star making performance.

Once I surrendered to it, I wanted more.  

Saturday, October 13, 2018


If you've never seen J. Stephen Brantley's 2013 play PIRIRA performed, there's a production of it in my part of Jersey that you shouldn't miss (it runs until October 28th) at Luna Stage in a section of what we used to call "The Valley" where Orange and West Orange collide.

Directed and cast by Ari Laura Keith, this staging is finely tuned and the results are impactful, as intended. The cast pulls off the challenging and at times nuanced choreography of articulating two initially seemingly only slightly related stories. Without being too "clever" the stories suck you into the vortex their juxtaposition creates, until it's too late to not give in.

The four members of the ensemble live up to the demands of their characters' arcs, even those I was initially suspicious of (as written characters and of the actors playing them). But I left totally impressed by Naja Selby-Morton, John P. Keller, Kevis Hillocks, and a wonderful discovery (for me) David Gow whose seamless performance seemed to hold the play together.

I laughed, I cried, as the old cliche goes, but I really did. If you live anywhere near Luna Stage (555 Valley Road, West Orange NJ), I mean anywhere within driving distance, get thee to this theater and this production of PIRIRA.

Friday, October 12, 2018



With Ed at The Skyline Faggots commune, Ted, a
young black man, called me Foxy Miss Michael
as he brought out a box of jewelry and put a tiara
on me, then looked surprised as I picked out some
clip-on earrings and a necklace. Someone gave me
a mirror and my turn to be surprised, by the rush
when I dug myself. Someone else got a big piece of
purple velvet I wrapped around me, gliding around
the room posing, moving in ways I never had before,
discovering a whole other side to myself, not man,
as I’ve known that, not woman, shocking the gay
men with my unexpected grace and poise. A young
redhead said I looked like an English Princess. Earlier
he read a poem ending Faggots of the world ignite!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Went into the theater with high expectations because of the raves my friends have been giving this film. The fourth remake of a 1932 film, and the third with the same name. If my memory serves me correctly, this one is more closely based on the 1976 version with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand that I was alone among my friends in liking at the time, mostly because people felt Streisand overwhelmed Kristofferson, deliberately.

This new one stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and neither is gonna get overwhelmed by the other, these are two great talents matching chops. As usual, Cooper's acting is seamless. Gaga's often is a revelation, though there's a few scenes where she's not as believable as the rest. But her singing and musicianship is so powerful on the big screen, I felt like I was at a private concert for my benefit and was grateful.

Cooper's singing was surprisingly good as well. Just to experience their singing is worth the price of the movie. And his directing was also good, with only a few stumbles, including length, he could have cut it by at least twenty minutes, if not more, and made the same impact, or a better one. But his casting was smart, with some surprisingly poignant performances by several unexpected cast members, like Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chapelle.

All in all, worth seeing on the big screen.  

Monday, October 8, 2018


The children being held in prison camps and the adults being held in prisons around the country, because they sought asylum or a better life in this country, are mostly descendants of the indigenous peoples of the "Americas" who should be free to cross any mythical "border" created by "white" Europeans and their descendants on land that wasn't theirs to begin with.

Friday, October 5, 2018


Michael Moore's latest documentary, FAHRENHEIT 11/9, does what Moore's films always do for those of us who share his goals and values: scores points we've been waiting to see scored for our side and exposes truths the media overlooks or distorts about how bad the other side really is.

But in the age of Trump, it feels like not enough. It's worth seeing for a lot of reasons, and it does its best to motivate audiences to take action. But despite its partly accurate, party selective evidence that the Dems are at fault too, it seems as lacking in usable focus and organizing methods as the Dems too often do.

I'd love to see a younger filmmaker, preferably not a white straight male, bring more focus and clarity to solutions for the dilemmas we are in. Just look at the poster above and the film title and you can see how the Repubs and the right in general often do a better job of engaging and focusing their audiences and constituents through their slogans and soundbites and repetitive catchphrases and talking points.

Still, I recommend seeing it for its many strong scenes and even revelations, and to support Moore's ongoing attempts to educate the public even if it's too divided I fear for this film to change any hearts and minds at this point.

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Me and my first born, my daughter Caitlin, not long after her birth in Iowa City in 1968.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Hey, my oldest son plays bass behind Greg Farley, who I'm a big fan of (my son and Greg Farley, as well as the drummer Michael Lesko), so I'm gonna be at this gig at Bowery Electric  tomorrow evening, maybe see you there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


"And it is strange how all forget when they have once made things or themselves to be very different."  —Gertrude Stein (from The Making Of Americans)

Sunday, September 30, 2018


Saw this a few weeks ago and loved it. A small romantic comedy with some serious themes—including my favorite: redemption. And well-acted, with a great cast led by Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd, and Ethan Hawke. Well-directed by Jesse Peretz, and well-written (despite it being by a group of writers) based on a novel by Nick Hornby. And very clever, not meant ironically or in quotes but in the original meaning of clever. A treat. Catch it if you can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


My dear longtime friend Karen Allen turned me on to this video of Mary Chapin Carpenter singing and playing her beautiful song "Sometimes Just The Sky" and I wanted to share it because it touched me deeply.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZpBrOJb7k4

Monday, September 24, 2018


For all my Jersey friends, on Saturday evening, October 20th, at 7:30PM, I'll be doing a solo reading and signing copies of ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY at Words bookstore in Maplewood NJ. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


I know two poets named Joel Lipman. One of them has just died. That Joel Lipman was a dearest friend in my L.A. years. He's pictured above in the mostly white shirt in the upper left corner just behind Michael Harris who is head to head with Hubert Selby Jr. whose shoulder I'm leaning on in the background behind Eve Brandstein.

The photo makes Joel look young and easy going and was taken at one of our weekly poetry readings in the series Poetry In Motion that Eve and I ran for several years in the 1980s and '90s. Everyone in the photo was a regular at those weekly readings, to which Joel always brought a hard-edged realism, usually with narrative poems about his experiences growing up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago (check out this video of him reading a piece about those years) or his carrying the attitude those years left him with into the Hollywood encounters he later faced in the film business.

I knew Joel as a tough but honorable person, with integrity and clarity in all encounters. I cherish the books he gave me for my birthdays, always rare and exactly what I wanted though I hadn't known I did until I got them (like Brendan Behan's New York, in which his inscription begins "this book reminds me of you and it belongs on your shelf..."). I loved this man and am sorry I hadn't been in touch so much in recent years so I could have told him that.

My condolences to his family first of all, and then to his many friends and fans, among whom I was and am proud to be counted.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Another great event on my book "tour"—for ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017—this time at The Bookstore in Lenox Massachusetts with an attentive audience of friends and strangers, who made me feel welcomed and appreciated. I am blessed.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


My son Miles Lally plays bass (and Michael Lesko drums) in a trio that makes music that moves and engages me, maybe it'll do the same for you, this is their stripped down modified "acoustic" take on one of their songs that they performed while in Nashville recently, the singer/songwriter whose band this is, Greg Farley, is the real deal, and if you can't dig that, keep it to yourself, cause I do (and listen to the mini-intro interview with Greg, it explains his music totally:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


This letter was sent out on the 18th to The Bookstore list, and I was so touched by it I wanted to share it, so here it is:

Michael Lally  Another Way to Play: Poems 1960-2017 
Friday September 21st at 5:30 p.m.

When I wrote in last week’s letter that I don’t read a lot of poetry, well, that wasn’t quite true.  I can remember riding in a car with a bunch of strangers to a poetry reading down in Washington, D.C., this was maybe 1973, and the poet was some guy around my age, skinny like me, too, but way more street smart, just a lot more ‘aware’ of things around him, which is how I have always believed all poets are, well, most of ‘em. 

Anyhow it was Michael Lally reading that night, and I’ve been a big fan ever since.  The guy seemed to inhabit a world just beyond my own experience, yet I found I could follow along just fine.  That was a first-time revelation to me, the literal key to the door to the world of poetry and literature. 

Last time he read here at The Bookstore maybe twenty years ago, it was around one of our birthdays, his or mine I can’t quite remember, but I do remember a poem he wrote about meeting someone and forgetting later on he had met her, meeting her again and reading her the poem he’d written about the meeting, not realizing it was the same she he was reading it to.

(He writes it much better than I can tell it. Maybe he’ll read it this time too.)  For a good sample of some of his work, here’s a link to his blogspot: http://lallysalley.blogspot.com/ 

I still have my original copy of one of his early chapbooks Rocky Dies Yellow. I don’t think I realized he’d published over twenty-five books of poetry.  Or that he’d read at the Gotham Book Mart sometime after I’d worked there, hosted by my old friend Janey (no relation) Tannenbaum.  I think I was up here in Lenox by that time.

All this to say Michael Lally will be reading from his newest collection Another Way to Play: Poems 1960-2017, just published by Seven Stories Press, this coming Friday September 21st at 5:30 p.m. and it is a collection well worth an honored place on your own bookshelf at home.  Open it anywhere and you’ll fall right in with his cadence, his storytelling, his ease in sharing with you what he wants you to know:

I did what I did for poetry I thought
           and I never sold out, and even when I did
nobody bought

And here’s an extra bonus! Independent filmmaker Rachel Diken, is following the poet on his book tour (Washington, D.C., New York City, the Berkshires) and will be on hand that night with a small crew to record the reading.  

Michael Lally: I Want to Call it Poems: A Documentary. Read about that here: https://rachelediken.com/film/

And come to the reading. Friday, September 21st at 5:30 p.m.  See you then.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


I'll be reading from and signing ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017 this Friday, September 21st, at 5:30PM, at The Bookstore in Lenox Massachusetts.The word doesn't seem to have gotten out so if you know anyone who might be interested please let them know...thanks.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


My niece, who we called "Reenie" passed away suddenly from complications of her diabetes, at age 49. An unexpected and tragic death. My heart goes out to her boyfriend and her sister especially. My late sister Joan and brother-in-law Joe adopted Reenie when she was a baby. And I knew her for her entire life.

I'm grateful that I moved back to Jersey after forty years elsewhere, so that I could reconnect in a deeper way and spend more time with relatives and old friends. Reenie and I spoke regularly on the phone and I am so happy that in recent years she seemed happier than ever, especially with her relationship and life.

Her adopted mother, my sister, died at around the same age, 50, from complications of a lifetime battle with her childhood diabetes, diagnosed when she was seven at a time when that still meant a death sentence (the doctor told our parents they shouldn't expect her to live beyond her teenage years).

What a mystery that this beloved mother and daughter passed around the same age from the ramifications of the same disease despite their not sharing any DNA. There are ties stronger than "blood."

Friday, September 14, 2018


Today is my godson Nick Browne's 28th birthday. Here's a photo of us together last spring at my book party in NYC. He's a master chef who won the cooking show competition CHOPPED and now works at a unique little spot on Railroad Street in Great Barrington Massachusetts called Botanica, where I ate dinner tonight and was as surprised as the competing chefs on CHOPPED were when he won, or the judges were by the original combinations he comes up with for every dish, especially when limited by what he can use. If you're ever up there on a Thursday or Friday or Saturday night, make sure you check it out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


I Am From… By Eli “Deak” Hotaling I am from sun-damaged skin Freckles and straw hats From tractors and dirt And fresh tomatoes I am from music and Ridges of chosen family From barefoot and dancing I am from small streams Trees and overgrown lawns From concrete and brick And the pretty cityscapes of Jersey I am from rainbows and cheers From black and plaid Parades of people and glitter That takes forever to wash off I am from darkness And false words From tomboys and girlie-girls I am from music Loud, fast, and angry I am from brush strokes And pencil sketches From iron-on patches And D.I.Y videos I am from candles, incense And crystals charging under the full moon I am from black cats And “fight back” From “stand up” And “never back down” I am from marches and protests From outcasts and artists I am from speaking your mind And taking no crap.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Berry Berenson was a friend to me in my early years in Hollywood. She was married to the movie star Tony Perkins at the time and until his death in 1992. They seemed really loving to each other and I admired their relationship. And I admired her.

Though she was often noted more as Perkin's wife or as model/actress Marisa Berenson's sister, Berry was a wonderful actor in her own right (see REMEMBER MY NAME). But despite her fame-for-whatever-reason, at least around me she was always the least pretentious or self-centered person I ever met anywhere.

She came to a play I was in early on in L.A., the first L.A. run of Landford Wilson's BALM IN GILEAD, and after the performance stuck around to talk to me. One of the things she said to me that night was that she had only seen one other person in her life who had the kind of glow, I think that was the word she used, that I had, and that was Marilyn Monroe!

She was wonderful on screen and off, either in front of the camera or behind it (she was a great photographer), and I only wish, as I too often do with many friends, that I had made more of an effort to see her more often. Especially after I heard the news that she had been on one of the two planes that crashed into The World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

I knew some others who went down with the towers on that tragic day, like Father Mike Judge, but Berry is the one I think of most often. As I later wrote in a poem ("March 18, 2003"), she was:

"a woman who was kind to me when
she didn't need to be[...]
How many people have died
before you got the chance to tell them what you meant to?"

R.I.P. to all those we lost on that horrific day.

Monday, September 10, 2018


"We want to create a world in which love is more possible."  —Carl Ogelsby (1960s SDS leader)

Sunday, September 9, 2018


There is a lot to appreciate about THE WIFE. Starting with three Oscar-worthy performances by the always challenging Glenn Close as the title character; Annie Starke—a revelation for me and, I would guess, you—as that character's younger self; and the underrated but always brilliant Elizabeth McGovern, who has one scene and almost steals it as an aging 1950s bitter, cynical author reminiscent of Mary McCarthy at her most acerbic.

There is also the screenplay by Jane Anderson, adapted from a novel by Meg Wolitzer, which kept me intellectually engaged while at the same time, as an ex-screenwriter, impressed. And after a thoughtful discussion with friends, I continued to think about the themes and scenes of the film until I went to bed, and picked up thinking about it when I got up in the morning, seeing more resonance and meaning in what at times initially appeared to be superficial plot points.

The soundtrack is another award-worthy aspect of this movie. As is the cinematography and editing. My only quibble is with the casting of the male actors. Christian Slater is competent as an intrusive biographer looking for dirt, but Max Irons is merely adequate as the contentious son, and the same for Harry Lloyd as the younger husband and father. And though Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the older version of that character, I had a difficult time accepting that his character began life as a tough, impoverished, deeply ethnic, urban, Jewish scrapper.

Minor quibbles considering the satisfaction the film continues to give me. So I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


I only have one Burt Reynolds story. I was in Amsterdam in 2001 working on a film I had helped write for director Ate de Jong. My first time in that city, and I fell in love with its beauty and manageability. It's like a college campus with canals.

One day I was waiting in the hallway outside the sound stage where the film was being shot, when what appeared to me to be an older man came out of the door on the sound stage across the hall. The hallway was all white, as I remember it, and bright, and the entire length of it was empty except for the man and me.

We nodded to each other, acknowledging each other's presence, and as we did so I realized it was Burt Reynolds. I don't remember if we talked, though I feel like we did and he cracked a joke, maybe at the expense of the movie he was making, maybe asked about the one I was involved with. I just remember thinking how amazing it was to be in the presence of this icon.

I always liked him, from his early days on TV in RIVERBOAT, and later playing the "half-breed" blacksmith on GUNSMOKE, to his performance in DELIVERANCE, and AT LONG LAST LOVE (one of the only people I know who loved that film when it came out), and STARTING OVER. And I loved his self-deprecating, but also self-loving, attitude that made him seem like he fell out of bed and into one of the most successful movie and TV acting careers in the history of the entertainment business. He didn't.

He obviously worked very hard for it, but made that work seem easy. Not an easy thing to do, though those who can do it are often underrated. It's not surprising that the only other movie star in history who, like Burt, had a five-consecutive-year run as top box office star, was Bing Crosby, who perfected the same veneer of seeming to be not working at all as he conquered radio, TV, movies, and records.

May Burt rest in eternally well-deserved plaudits.

Thursday, September 6, 2018


me (in my hang-my-jacket-on-one-shoulder and unique-glasses-frames phase), with artist friend Paul Harryn and my oldest son, Miles (in his growing dreads phase), in Santa Monica c. late 1980s?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


I usually turn to movies for relief from the mundane or at times burdensome demands of every day life. And usually it works. Every now and then it doesn't. BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB (a remake of a late 1980s film version of a mid-1980s true story) caught my interest because of Ansel Elgort, who was so promising in BABY DRIVER.

Though the story could be compelling and the script the basis of an engaging film, director James Cox and his editor seem to go out of their way to impede that outcome. Right from the start my reaction was huh? The scenes are shot and directed as though they are disconnected, and elongated so that the audience is so far ahead of the unfolding plot the only recourse the editor seemed to see was throwing in a dissonant scene fragment that made no logical or storyline sense.

The cast consists of mostly talented actors. Not surprisingly, Kevin Spacey plays a sleazy scumbag character as well as he always does (which some would say comes naturally), and a cameo turn by Judd Nelson (who was in the original BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB movie) is beautifully understated, but otherwise everyone else is so over the top you feel like you're being slammed around between pieces of the most melodramatic soap opera ever and long stretches of self indulgence from a beginner film student so enamored with his shots and scenes they draw them out to the point of creative paralysis.

Oh, and there seemed to be no attempt to reproduce the styles of the 1980s to add even an element of veracity.  So: not recommended.

Monday, September 3, 2018


"On this Labor Day remember that none of you are paid what we are worth. For as long as we allow the lowest of us to be paid wages in which they cant afford basic human necessities after working a standard workweek then we all subject ourselves to being ok with less. The power will always be in a unified working class." —Timmy Lally

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Two weeks ago a friend took me to see Jessica Sherr perform her one-woman show: BETTE DAVIS AIN'T FOR SISSIES (the title riffs on Davis's famous quote late in life: "Getting old ain't for sissies"). It was at "the church around the corner" on East 29th Street in Manhattan—otherwise known as "the actors' church"—in a small library converted into a small theater.

I give credit to anyone who does a one-person show live onstage, just for the courage and commitment it takes to stand up there all alone and try to retain an audience's attention and interest for usually at least an hour, and often more, even when it doesn't work. But this show and performance works. From her first words and movements on the small set meant to be Davis's Beverly Hills home the night of the 1939 Oscar ceremony (in February of1940), Sherr owned the stage and both entertained and enlightened the audience.

There were moments when Sherr evoked so perfectly Davis's voice and mannerisms, she became her. Though for most of the show, she was not so much mimicking Davis's physicality and unique accent, but rather channeling her personality and spirit and intelligence. I knew most of the details of Davis's career and personal life (Sherr brings both Davis's past and future to life in the course of this one Oscar night) but still felt pleasantly surprised and informed.

This is an evolving show Sherr has been working on and performing for years, and the night we saw it was the first time a new expanded version was performed for an audience. By their reaction (and mine) it was a hit. If you like live theater, especially in an intimate setting (those in the front row can almost touch the performer) and appreciate the hard work a one-person show demands, go see BETTE DAVIS AIN'T FOR SISSIES next time Sherr performs it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Check them out at
[but turn up the volume
for old raspy voice]:
Live on The Facebook
Part 2 continues here:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


From Vicki Abelson: "Sure, he's an award-winning poet who's lived through the coolest of times, with the hippest of peoples, none groovier than Michael Lally, his fine self... he's played on screens big and small, written more books than I can count, collected praise and trophies out the wazoo... was very recently lauded by Hilaria and Alec Baldwin, besting any of that for me, this man changed more lives than he will ever know. Mine for one. We'll be talkin' and going there. Cannot wait to meet this man, I've known through words, pictures, and countless mutual friends.. tomorrow we take it in the reals and celebrate all that he is, including his, recently dropped latest, Another Way to Play: Poems 1960-2017, and an upcoming documentary on the man, in which we may possibly play a tiny part, if you fuckers tune-in, don't drop out, and ask some good damn questions tomorrow. I can't wait for this treasured Facebook friend to walk off the interweb and into my life.
Michael Lally on The Road Taken, Celebrity Maps to Success, Wed, 8/29/18, 7 pm PT/ 10 pm ET
Live on The Facebook
All BROADcasts, as podcasts, also available on
This week's BROADcast is brought to you by Rick Smolk of Quik Impressions, the best printers, printing, the best people people-ing.
And, Nicole Venables of Ruby Begonia Hair Studio Beauty and Products for tresses like the stars she coifs, and regular peoples, like me. I love my hair, and I loves Nicole. http://www.rubybegoniahairstudio.com/ Her fabulous Ruby Begonia Products can be purchased and shipped from http://www.frendsbeauty.com/

Monday, August 27, 2018


I hung out with Neil Simon once in my Hollywood years. Carrie Fisher asked me to be her date for a New Year's party at Alana Stewart's, Rod's ex. I picked Carrie up in the little Colt station wagon I was driving that had no mats on the floor and you had to roll the windows up manually, wearing an '80s shoulder padded gray suit coat with an oil slick sheen to it over a black shirt. Carrie made a little sound like this wasn't what she expected but I was often cocky then, despite realities.

I needed that attitude when we got there and found most of the men wearing black tie tuxes or close to it. Alana's party room was like a night club with a bandstand and live band on it, and tables for four spread around. Carrie and I sat with Teri Garr, who we already knew, and Neil Simon joined us. I ate like a starving poet and probably talked too much, Carrie and Teri were very funny, as always, and Simon was sweet and seemed truly delighted with our company.

When no one would dance to the live music—because as Carrie pointed out when I asked, stars didn't want to not look less than perfect—and the food was gone, I suggested we move on to a party I knew of in an old house in "the flats" (Beverly Hills at the bottom of the hills) where a lot of "young Hollywood" would be, including friends of mine, even though I was in my forties by then.

At that party there was one room devoted entirely to dancing but so packed the dancing was minimalist. Simon did his best to be a part of it even though he seemed out of place and the oldest there, but still very attentive to the ladies in a gentlemanly way. During a break in the music, a young kid, in his late teens or early twenties, managed to get next to Simon to declare that he was a playwright too, and Simon did something I've only seen a few stars I've been around do, he talked to this young playwright like they were equals.

He asked him about his work and engaged him in a conversation about writing choices and humor and so on like they were old colleagues. There were other things that occurred that evening, but the Neil Simon part was in many ways the most memorable for me. I love it when someone whose work you admire turns out to be decent and kind-hearted.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Took part in a march today protesting
the nomination of Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice
great to be a part of such a worthy cause
the tall one's me (next to me is friend Beth Boily)
without make up

Saturday, August 25, 2018


"John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.
Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Cindy and their family."
—Barack Obama

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Kind of faded but still moving to me, this snapshot of the late great guitarist (pretty good on keyboards too) Sandy Bull (holding child), my oldest son, Miles, a great bass player (also known to play some guitar and keyboards and drums) in the chair behind me, and to my left the late great jazz sax player Buddy Arnold, with me (the piano player, who when young also played some trumpet and acoustic uprigt bass) in the middle, wearing a sweater my oldest brother got in the 1930s and was handed down to me and I still have! Santa Monica Xmas 1983

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


For anyone anywhere near The Berkshires next month, On September 21st, I'll be doing a solo reading and signing copies of ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017, at The Bookstore in Lenox MA

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Poet Frank T. Rios, "the man in black"—not sure whether he or Johnny Cash was first called that— was a friend and an inspiration. Though originally a New Yorker, he ended up in Venice Beach in California in the 1950s and became known among some as part of the original Venice Beach "Beats."

I knew of him through Stuart Z. Perkoff, who I met in Denver when I was A.W.O.L. from the military for a few weeks in the summer of 1962, but whose poetry I'd known of for years. So when I moved to L.A. in 1982, Frankie was one of the first poets I connected with.

I read with him many times and was always impressed by his unique style, including "blowing" poems, a la jazz musicians "blowing"—i.e. improvising live on the spot—as well as his ritual of reading a poem jotted down on a piece of paper and then burning the poem after he read it to an audience.

Relatively late in his life he met and married his final muse, Joyce, who was a comfort and support to him and helped him get his books more widely distributed, which made us all who loved him happy for him. Here's the last poem in ALMOST MIDNIGHT IN AMERICA, a little book from 1995:

in all

in all
the dark corners
America blinks
its black eye
slapping the streets
of its bloody cities

in all
the dark corners
America blinks
a black-eye
a dead hand
against the face
of its cities

blinking shut
the window
of its heart

And because my posts are about my connections to things I write of, here's a poem he wrote only for me as an inscription in an issue of a serial anthology/magazine he edited called BLACK ACE BOOK 5 in which he referred to some lines from my poetry and for which I was and am humbly grateful:


there was a time
it didn't hurt
& then there was

like Rocky we die
for the poem
as she puts the rose
in our mouths.

I hope baby
has you eyes.

thank you for the poem
I love them.


Monday, August 20, 2018


Spike Lee's BLACKKKLANSMAN is up there with his DO THE RIGHT THING in terms of working perfectly as a movie. As you've probably heard, the new movie is based on a  true story, but what makes it most satisfying are often scenes that are totally made up (which has drawn some strong criticism, but those scenes make the story work as a movie).

John David Washington (also known as Denzel's son) does a great job in the leading roll as a black cop who infiltrates the KKK, and Adam Driver is as good as he's ever been as the white cop who fronts for Washington's character. There's a lot of good acting and storytelling, and lots of new, as well as familiar, cinematic tricks from Lee. Not to be missed.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Tom and I knew each other through correspondence and the Internet for many years, but I feel his loss as though he lived around the corner. He was a poet and critic and unique blogger as well as a friend. He died from being hit by a car, something that had occurred once before not that many years ago and left him permanently damaged. He complained about the serious problems for pedestrians in his area of Berkeley California, both in his poetry and in his correspondence. Which he obviously was right to.
Here is a blog post I made eight years ago about his poetry and more:

Friday, August 17, 2018


CRAZY RICH ASIANS is an epic romantic comedy. It has some of the tropes and expectations of a traditional rom-com, but it's scale and achievement makes it epic. Set mostly in Singapore, it has some local critics saying the movie doesn't get their city state, and the mix of its inhabitants, correct. But watching it, I felt like others have reacted, I actually welled up, overwhelmed by the reality of an all Asian cast getting to light up the screen with joyful charisma unfettered by martial arts displays or any of the usual Hollywood Asian movie cliches (well, for the most part).

As others have pointed out, one of the breakthrough aspects of the movie is the leading men, all Asian, and mostly hunky and handsome and totally holding the screen as movie stars. If I had my choice for the next James Bond it would be Idris Elba, but if not him Henry Golding (the leading male in CRAZY RICH ASIANS) or Harry Shum Jr. (Golding's character's best friend in the film).

And any one of the women in the movie could carry their own film as a lead, including the marvelous Awkwafina who stole OCEAN'S EIGHT and would almost steal CRAZY RICH ASIANS if she wasn't up against such powerhouses as the iconic, legendary Michelle Yeoh, and the younger stars Constance Wu and Gemma Chan.

Sitting in the theater, moved by the magnitude of a genre movie's impact in normalizing what Hollywood generally marginalizes, I remembered sitting in a crowded theater on the other coast back in the day watching an audience respond to the Irish movie THE COMMITMENTS and thinking, this is a game changer, the real Irish culture and landscape is being not just accepted but celebrated. And though CRAZY RICH ASIANS is mostly limited to the class the title refers to, it still represents an acceptance and celebration of real individual Asians in a movie unrelated to the non-Asian perspective of almost any other Hollywood movie to date.

Thursday, August 16, 2018


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


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 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


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):