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....