Saturday, July 20, 2019

FRANK DE LA ROSA R.I.P.


Frank de la Rosa is mostly known as a great jazz bassist, but I knew him as the coolest uncle of a dear friend in the 1990s in LA and the cool brother of triplet sisters who were equally cool in their varying ways. I only spent time with him at a few events, but I loved talking with him. He had a generosity of spirit, in my encounters with him, that unfortunately isn't as common as it should be. My condolences to all his family and friends and fans.

Hard to find videos (for my old brain anyway) of his bass work, but here's a gig he played on where you get to hear some of his exquisite musicianship, if you listen closely:



Friday, July 19, 2019

CAPTAIN MARVEL

I saw CAPTAIN MARVEL because it starred Brie Larson, and she certainly made it worth watching for me, along with some other members of the cast. And the big plot twist added an element of surprise that, well, surprised me. But for the first third, maybe even half, of the film my main reaction was: whaaaat? Guess you had to read the (comic) book.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

ONCE

Not sure who took this shot of me at 32 in 1974 in my studio apartment on Florida Avenue not far from DuPont Circle in DC. I'm grateful to my Irish ancestors who endowed me with genes that allowed me to eat whatever, whenever, and as much as I wanted, and not jog or workout or take any measures to stay so slim, except a lot of boogieing of all kinds.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OUTSIDE MULLINGAR

While I was in The Berkshires this past weekend I saw the closing night of John Patrick Shanley's OUTSIDE MULLINGAR at The Unicorn Stage in Stockbridge. It had been done on Broadway in 2014 and ran less than two months (though it was nominated for some awards).

But seeing this production directed by Karen Allen (full disclosure: a longtime dear friend) I could imagine it running for years. The audience included people who were seeing it for the second and third time, and it was given a standing ovation and a couple of curtain calls. There was laughter and tears and that childlike quality that Shanley brings to so much of his work (MOONSTRUCK for instance).

Set in the Irish countryside on two adjacent farms, it involves four characters, a widow and her daughter on one farm and a widower and his son on the other. The soul of the story is familiar in Irish theater and history: who gets the farm. But the heart of the story is all about the reticence and reluctance and shyness and insecurity when it comes to romance, so common in Irish culture and stories.

They say casting is ninety percent of a director's job, though having done some stage directing myself I'd raise the percentage of work a director does after the cast is chosen. In this case, Allen elevated Shanley's story by her direction, beyond picking a solid cast. Like Jeffrey DeMunn as the father and James McMenamin as his son, who together make the tensions and vulnerabilities of their relationship(s) poignant.

But it's the women of the play—Deborah Headwell as the widow and Shannon Marie Sullivan as her daughter—who opened my heart wide to Shanley's whimsy and humor that makes their longings bearable. Sullivan especially is a revelation. She should be a Broadway star. From the moment she came on stage, the power of her presence and performance almost drew gasps, and certainly my awe. I hope there were some talent scouts among those who came to see it, because Shannon Marie Sullivan showed colossal talent in this production of OUTSIDE MULLINGAR.  

Monday, July 15, 2019

YIKES

So I'm up in the country on a little hiatus and I walk into the eating area of the home I'm staying in just as my hostess (one of my dearest and oldest friends) spies a bear standing up and holding onto a large bird feeder only inches away from us on the other side of the window flicking its tongue rapidly to get the seed out of the feeder (she says they can empty this almost two foot long feeder of all the seed in only minutes).

As she bangs on the window, the bear turns to stare at us, mouth open, powerful jaw and many teeth impressing me, but then goes right back to flicking out the bird seed with its tongue. So she opens the window next to it and yells and claps her hands very loudly, and the bear drops and rumbles off a few feet, then turns around and looks at us and starts walking back to the feeder just as she opens the window to get the feeder off it's hook and into the house and the window closed.

She starts clapping again and I join in, and that, or the yelling or the feeder being gone, gets the bear to waddle off among some nearby trees, climb up one to about fifteen feet off the ground and then, not finding what it wants, climb back down and eventually wander off. I didn't have the instinct nor do I have the habit of recording all this on my phone, so you'll have to take my word for it. I found it a little scary, and fascinating, she seemed to find it fascinating too, though she's used to it, and the bear kind of adorable.

Friday, July 12, 2019

JIM BOUTON R.I.P.

I thought the worldwide web was supposed to make everything available, but a lot of things from my life I can't find including the time I was on TO TELL THE TRUTH, somewhere in the late 1970s or 1980 (?), and Jim Bouton was on the panel for that episode.

I remember standing around talking to him and how humorous and unpretentious he was for a guy who was famous at the time. It made me go out and get and read his book, BALL FOUR. Many years later (1990s?) I ran into him in an ice cream store in The Berkshires (Western Mass) and reminded him of the episode and was able to tell him how much I loved that book. And once again he was funny and unpretentious.

Those two experiences left me believing that he was a happy human, well adjusted to his life and the realities of it, good or not so good. I smile whenever I think of him. May he rest in all the smiles he generated, including mine, and his own.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

NOT SO LONG AGO

my friend, the drummer and writer John Straus,
holding a copy of my last book,
and me, at a local bakery, a few months ago

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

DREAM TEAM

I watched the celebration for the US Women's World Cup soccer team this morning live on local (NYC) TV and was knocked out by how feckin cool they all are. When I was a kid Babe Ruth was still alive, and Babe Didrikson. Jack Dempsey was still an Irish-American hero, especially for my family since my mother's father's family were Dempseys, and Joe Louis, "The Brown Bomber" was heavyweight champ and Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball and was my personal hero, and Broadway Joe Namath was the coolest professional football hero ever and on and on I could go but no athlete or group of athletes in my lifetime have ever been as cool as the 2019 women's world cup soccer team, period. And Megan Rapinoe is the coolest person alive right now in my book.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

MUSIC YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS

A shot taken by my grandson Donovan of his father (my oldest son, Miles Lally) on bass (in hat), songwriter and singer Greg Farley on guitar, and Michael Lesko on drums, playing in Manhattan on Sunday at a gig I couldn't make but wish I had been able to. The family that plays together...

Friday, July 5, 2019

ANOTHER LIST!

Still don't have the compulsion to constantly make lists that I had pre-brain-op, but, every now and then I feel the urge to make one again, as I did the night I saw YESTERDAY. I had mentioned a favorite film, ABOUT TIME, in my post/review and while falling sleep suddenly found myself doing an alphabet list of one movie per letter, of films I like that have that same fantasy quality, not LORD OF THE RINGS or HARRY POTTER fantasy, but the what-if kind of fantasy. I cane up with more than usual before falling asleep, and the next day added a few that might stretch the definition (UMBRELLAS OF CHEROURG for instance isn't a fantasy per se but the fact it's all sung makes it feel like one) :

ABOUT TIME
BIG
CHANCES ARE
DROP DEAD FRED
ERASERHEAD
F
GROUNDHOG DAY
HEAVEN CAN WAIT
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
JUST LIKE HEAVEN
K
L.A. STORY
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
NATURAL, THE
O
PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, THE
Q
R
SECRET OF ROAN INISH, THE
T
UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, THE
V
WHALERIDER, THE
X
YESTERDAY
Z

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

PROTEST

You know that image of the lone Chinese man standing in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989 during the demonstrations for democracy? He wears a white shit and what look like black pants and he's carrying a shopping bag in one hand.

If I were young and still living in DC I'd get all my activist friends to dress exactly like him, and grab a paper shopping bag and go stand in front of the tanks that dump has planned for the July 4th festivities on the National Mall.

The tanks are supposed to be stationary so it would only be symbolic, but if hundreds or even thousands of people did that, it would have the kind of impact that protests in the 1960s that radical art and theater groups came up with. Time to revive those tactics.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

YESTERDAY

YESTERDAY is a delightful fantasy/fable flick that is an antidote, no matter how temporary, to all that's bringing us down in the world right now. Just as the music of The Beatles did in another time of trouble, YESTERDAY reminds us of what's most important (even if in an obvious way).

I don't know how they got the rights to the music, but that alone makes this worth seeing. Then add the imagination of Jack Barth (ATTACK THE BLOCK among other favorites of mine) and the writing of Richard Curtis (ABOUT TIME, another movie fable favorite of mine) and the direction of Danny Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE among other faves), and add the updated pertinence of Himesh Patel and Lily James playing the leads, with a great supporting cast (including Ed Sheehan and Kate McKinnon) and you have lots of reasons to take the time out to go catch this wonderful little gem.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

“look behind the eyes
i said and i say
 worry about the plumbing later”

—dick higgins 

(don't know what poem of dick's this is from but it's been bringing me comfort since I first read it and wrote it down almost fifty years ago)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

MY NEW HERO

I don't watch men's soccer on TV because it has rarely engaged my interest for long: too little scoring and too much histrionics (the phony injury act). But watching the USA women's team play France today (well, technically yesterday) was one of the most delightful TV sports experiences of the last few decades. The woman of both teams were so athletically tough and talented it was pure pleasure to watch them compete. And Megan Rapinoe, who scored the US team's two goals, is such a charismatic star, I not only have a hero crush on her, if I had room on my walls I'd put a poster of her up on one.

Friday, June 28, 2019

MORE PRIDE

The top photo is the late DC poet Ed Cox and me around the time we did a poetry reading at Catholic U. in DC in Spring of 1972. Ed had just come out a few weeks before me. We both read poems about love and relationships between men, mine more sexually graphic, for what we were told was the first time at that institution and maybe in DC. The young poet Tim Dlugos afterward introduced himself and said we were his heroes. For a while Ed stayed at the commune I lived in with my first wife and our kids and where I would challenge him and myself to try poses neither of us ever had, like letting a wrist go limp (a la the second photo).  I went on to wear ribbons in my hair and mismatched clip-on earrings and sometimes dresses, but unfortunately have no photos of that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

ORE LGBQT+ PRIDE

I took part in the first Gay Pride celebration in Washington DC in early May of 1972, and marched with the Gay and Lesbian contingent in anti-war marches in 1972 and '73. I remember being in a photo on the front page of The Washington Post for one of those events which garnered lots of attention at the Catholic women's college I was teaching at then. Eventually leading to my being fired, partly as a result of my being openly "gay"—though I was what others called "bi-sexual" but I always dismissed as implying there are two kinds of sexuality when my experience was there are as many kinds as there are humans.

Initially coming out as a gay man in my 29th year was a political act, to show solidarity with my gay cohorts who were at that time maligned and oppressed and jailed and called mentally ill for preferring  same gender partners. But in recent years I've been identifying more with the "bi-sexual" label, because as was true back then and unfortunately still is, people on both ends of the spectrum of sexual choice and identity are still too often at best suspicious of the possibility of anyone being truly attracted to both of the traditional dominant genders and at worst see "bi" as a cop out (as I was told in 1972 by a leading activist, it allows for the pleasure of same gender sex with the privilege of not being seen as strictly gay and therefore suffering the prejudice etc.).

When I arrived in L.A. in 1982 at forty, looking for an acting career in films and TV to support my life as a poet, my poetry collections Hollywood Magic and Attitude had just come out and contained many poems about my fluid sexuality and identity which I was told by some meant death to the predictions I was the next (fill in the blank for bad boy actor). Most of the gay and lesbian actors I met were in the closet and stayed there. I looked forward to being interviewed on The Tonight show and flaunting my varied sexual past. But those who had warned me to bury that past may have been right as the expectations of agents and managers et. al. were dashed, as they used to say.

But I have no regrets and am still here and still proud of my past and of the young people who are more accepting of all the possibilities.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A NEW LIST

As my friends know, I was a compulsive (like OCD compulsive) list maker all my life, constantly making lists in my head or conversations or writing, until my brain operation almost a decade ago after which I woke up with not only no compulsion to makes lists but no desire to and no capacity for it. Best I could do would be two or three items and then I'd lose any and all interest and go elsewhere with my thoughts or words.

But, in the past year or so I've now and then felt compelled to make a list in my head, rarely but still it's happened. The latest was falling asleep a few nights ago when I found myself listing the names of movies I liked that begin with a hard "c" starting with five, and then the next day thinking of more, and then today writing them down and looking up some dates so I could affirm them because I listed them in what I believed was chronological order and on researching the dates I saw a few more to add until here I am with this list:

CASABLANCA
CABIN IN THE SKY (has problems but worth it for Ethel Waters and others great performers)
THE CLOCK
CAROUSEL
CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (saw it for the first time a few days ago which prompted this list, my new favorite film, and made by Agnes Varda when she was 25 with no film education or experience!)
THE COOL WORLD (Shirley Clarke's masterpiece)
COOL HAND LUKE
THE CONFORMIST
CABARET
COMING HOME
THE COMMITMENTS
COOL WORLD (Ralph Bakshi's uneven mix of animated and real actors and action, in which I did the voice for the cartoon character "Sparks")
THE CRYING GAME
CROOKLYN
CLERKS
CLUELESS
COP LAND
THE COOLER

Monday, June 17, 2019

KEVIN KILLIAN R.I.P.

I got this photo off the Internet and am sorry I don't know who took it. I was looking for an image of Kevin from around the time we met and couldn't find one; this was the youngest version of him I could find (at least on Google). We knew each other in the 1970s through the mail and mutual friends, especially the late poet Tim Dlugos who was one of my closest friends from the day we met until the day he died from the AIDs plague.

Perhaps the first time Kevin and I met was when we, and Tim, read at Stonybrook on Long Island in March of 1980 (which I know because on the ride back to Manhattan in Tim's car Tim interviewed me for Little Caesar magazine (issue 11) and mentions it in the intro to the interview. We saw each other over the years and perhaps read together again, Kevin and I, and he contacted me not that long ago about hopefully seeing me soon, despite the reality that he was sick and that was unlikely.

He was a generous, open poet whose personality and work had a big and widespread impact on all those who encountered either. The outpouring of grief from so many of us demonstrates that. My heart goes out to Dodie and to his many friends and fans.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

POEM FROM THE PAST

Here's a poem from the 1970s that was included in my latest book, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017:


FATHERS DAY

The suffering in 1942 as Spring
breaks open my mother for me.
In Europe the Jews, the Communists,

the Queers, the proud and
loving Rom are brutalized
again. The Irish in me is
emphasized, not the German,
not the Gypsy
I hope is there.


“You can’t write books” my father said
before I did, and after. At 75
me 32 he warns “Raise your children
right, get them through college
okay, then you can write your books.”

He knows a lot I don’t. I know
a lot he never thought of. We share 

ittle of that, though we share a lot.
Not much through words, but gestures
and the looks of him I carry always.
We are afraid of each other
like con men, or lovers, we know
we can hurt.

Friday, June 14, 2019

HOLLY PRADO R.I.P.

I am happy I got to see Holly when I was in L.A. last year. She was a wonderful poet and person and beloved teacher, and the wife of the great poet and actor Harry E. Northup, whose poetry often confirms his love for and deep appreciation of Holly. Theirs is one of the most admirable and enviable literary romances of the ages. My heart goes out to him and to all of Holly's family, friends, and fans. May she rest in poetry and peace.

And in case you don't know her or her work, I repost here a review I wrote of one of her poetry collections:


This latest collection of poems by Holly Prado is for my taste her strongest yet. Oh, Salt/Oh Desiring Hand is a terrific book, beautiful to look at and hold and read. Despite it's wide page format to fit Prado's sometimes very long lines, and good size print, it feels like an almost delicate work of art.

But "strong" is the word for Prado's humble honesty in confronting her age, her losses, her gratitude for the small delights of everyday life. Some of the best poems are in the first section with the longest lines, which I'm not going to try and reproduce in this post because I'd want to convey the way they look and read on the page not on my computer screen and its limitations.

But I'll type up two shorter poems with shorter lines so you can see the power of her unique poetic strategy and the ways it serves her subjects so well in this highly recommended collection:

ANOTHER

our own housecat
who has forgotten

the kitten births but years later
mothers me    settles where I am
makes sure of me

this cat we call Rose who wants to know
us and now and then in sleep she
with others has spoken clearly

why do they have language
only when we can't remember?

once in the canopy above
the forest we knew each other
everybody knew each other


MY HUSBAND SAYS, "I'LL JUST KEEP DOING IT"

so few experiences now    each one then
huge    today's is glare off the parking lot

nothing like appalachian murder ballads
or wild orchids    but summer glare
does recite the effort of groceries    many car
doors opening the drivers shapely in sleeveless
well-fitting tank tops

how huge?    I'm writing it down so
it's that huge because it's what I have
for Thursday's blank page

we know everything:
how to dress ourselves
how to choose a ripe avocado
how to raise our hands    palms out
to rebuke the useless

Thursday, June 13, 2019

NEW QUOTE THAT EXPRESSES MY FEELINGS

"let me get this straight--the women's soccer team (who are AWESOME!), made more goals in one world cup match than the men's team have in the last THREE world cup matches, and who celebrated after every goal, increasingly excited, so by the THIRTEENTH goal they were into the stratosphere, understandably and beautifully, thrillingly exuberant (isn't that what WINNING at sports is about...soaking in champagne...tearing down a whole city...etc.)...oh wait. they are being BULLIES, unsportsMANlike, and..what? mean? and especially by MALE dickhead commentators. SEXIST, anybody? and does this have anything to do with the fact that the female soccer players are suing, because they get paid less than a THIRD of what the players with penises do....? just saying. and, meanwhile, god those women are GREAT!"

—Darrell Larson (FaceBook post)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

SYLVIA MILES R.I.P.

I had seen Sylvia around at events in Manhattan in the 1970s, but it was when that decade was ending, as I remember it, that we actually met. I was at Saint Mark's for a Poetry Project event, probably the New Year's Day marathon, I was standing, my shoulder leaning against a wall, when I heard this raspy woman's voice behind me say something I no longer remember but it was definitely sexy and about her admiring my looks.

When I turned and saw her I recognized who she was, but she didn't know who I was. She asked if I was an actor, which I wasn't yet professionally, so I said I was a poet and to avoid interrupting the reading we went outside to talk, where I wasn't sure if she was kind of acting out a role or was seriously trying to pick me up.

I'd known, and understood as best I could, for many years about feminist criticism of the way women often were objectified, appreciated only or mostly for their physical attributes. But as a man, and as someone who had done gender-bending semi-drag in my feminist and gay liberation days, I had no objections to being objectified. But though I dug Sylvia's in-your-face personality and bluntness, something I was known for as well, I had no desire to go home with her.

She reacted like it was my loss, which it may well have been, and whenever we ran into each other after that, would tease me about it. She was an icon of Manhattan's downtown scene back then and after her Oscar nominated role in MIDNIGHT COWBOY became iconic to a worldwide audience. She was an original and one of the most committed actors you'll ever see on stage or screen and will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

GENTLEMAN JACK

I clapped and laughed and cheered all alone in my pad last night at the finale of the first season of the BBC and HBO's series set in the 1830s: GENTLEMAN JACK. Created by Sally Wainwright and based on the copious coded diaries of Anne Lister documenting her adventures, especially her affairs with women, it is one of the best written and acted (especially Suranne Jones in the title role) and edited and art directed and shot and original projects on any screen right now.

Monday, June 10, 2019

PRIDE 2

As I sat on a grassy hillside in a park not far from my apartment, listening to live music surrounded by a diverse crowd of people of all ages yesterday—from older than me to infants—all celebrating the LGBQT+ community, either as members or allies, I was moved to tears remembering all the friends and lovers lost to the AIDs epidemic in the1980s and '90s.

I wished they had lived to see this display of love and support and pride in at least this town (and my hometown next door, and more) and all around the country. But was also saddened by the realities that so much judgment and hate and violence still exists. Black trans women are still being murdered, as are young queers of all kinds, including in cities only a mile or so from my town.

The struggles continue, but the progress cannot be denied, for now. Vigilance and resistance against the judgment and hate and violence must be our daily commitment. Or at least mine.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

POETRY

So I took part in a poetry reading Thursday evening at the Montclair NJ public library. It was the publication reading for the 50th issue of the poetry mag LIPS, founded in 1980, and edited then and since, by Laura Boss who has sustained it with the help of Jim Gywn, and both are to be commended.

It was one of the best group poetry readings I've been to in many years, and the reason is because everyone who read a poem from this issue read well and all the poems were good, many of them simply terrific. I highly recommend you buy a copy of LIPS 50.

Here's the poem I read and is in the mag:

TIME CASTS A SPELL

I have no fuckin’ clue what that’s supposed to mean.
Time is a human invention.
What’s a date to a fly?
What’s a day to a fly?
A lifetime.
What’s a day to a tree?
One breath.
Does my hair mean the 1960s has cast a spell on me?

Maybe it means the reason I love to watch
Old black-and-white movies on TV is
Because they remind me of my childhood
When my parents were still alive
And my three oldest brothers and
My oldest sister who I adored
And my aunts and uncles and older
Cousins and despite, or because of, the war
And all its horrors and the post-war challenges
The future looked bright and inviting
and my immortality certain.

Or, maybe it means despite the ways you’ve aged
When I heard your voice it brought back every
Moment of pleasure and joy we shared when
We both were young enough to still be ambitious
But old enough to appreciate an interruption of
That to take time for new love.

Or maybe it just means I’m old
But carry with me in every moment
The sum of my experiences
The total array of emotions and
Thoughts and all that I’ve witnessed.
So that in any situation or circumstance
The history of my life is there
With me, reminding me of how
Much time matters
When there’s so little left
To cast its spell.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

REMEMBERING

On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, a photo of me and my five siblings (there was another brother between me and my sisters who died as an infant) in 1944, me in my oldest brother's arms, he had joined The Army Air Corps (they became the US Air Force after "the war" as we called WWII), and my next oldest brother to his right (viewer's left) soon would join the Navy before graduating high school because the government, in need of more troops, offered high school diplomas to volunteers in their last year of high school. Everyone gone now except for me and the youngest of my two older sisters, Irene.

PRETTY CLEAR


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

DEADWOOD

Me and David Milch being oversolicitous to each other on the set of DEADWOOD. I had the privilege of playing a character (Captain Bubb) on the last episode of the first season and thus becoming a small part of TV history. Many have called DEADWOOD the greatest TV show ever, even compared the writing (by Milch, the creator and main writer of the show, and full disclosure an old friend) to Shakespeare. And the recently aired ten years later sequel to the abruptly ended series—DEADWOOD: THE MOVIE—despite David's health challenges, lives up to that praise in too many ways to count. If you haven't seen the show the movie is still well worth watching, but I recommend watching the whole series and then the movie coda,

Sunday, June 2, 2019

PRIDE

Marched in a local Pride Parade today in the town I live in. A short march included walking through a famous intersection where the crosswalks are painted with the colors of the LGBQT etc. rainbow flag.

I marched in some of the first gay pride parades in DC and NYC and elsewhere, so this got me a little wet-eyed thinking about how far we've come and how far we still have to go. I'm grateful I've been a small part of LGBQT etc. activist history.

[photo by Chad Hunt]

Saturday, June 1, 2019

THE DAY AFTER WALT WHITMAN'S 200TH BIRTHDAY

"It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy,
Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave let him know he has enough.

—Walt Whitman (from Leaves Of Grass)

Friday, May 31, 2019

HAPPY 200TH BIRTHDAY WALT!

“Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.”

—Walt Whitman (from “Song of Myself”)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

ANOTHER FAVORITE QUOTE FROM WALT WHITMAN (IN HONOR OF THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH, MAY 31ST 1819)

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."
—Walt Whitman (from the preface to the 1855 edition of LEAVES OF GRASS)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

ANOTHER FAVORITE OLD QUOTE (IN HONOR OF THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF WALT WHITMAN''S BIRTH)

"...and then I felt down in my soul the clear and unmistakable conviction to disobey all, and pursue my own way."  —Walt Whitman (from Specimen Days)

Monday, May 27, 2019

MEMORIAL DAY

As I understand it, and experienced it as a kid, Memorial Day is when we honor those in the military who died in wars. A lot of folks confuse it with Veterans Day, which is in November (originally Armistice Day celebrating the end of World War One, the war to end war) and honors all veterans, even those, like me, who never saw combat. In thinking today about those mostly young "warriors" who died in wars, I can't help but focus on the lives they still had ahead of them that never were, and the contributions they might have made to our world. What a tragic waste of potential.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

YESTERDAY

Spent my birthday yesterday morning and afternoon with my two sons, Miles (who said something to make me laugh in the selfie of all three of us in the kitchen of my apartment) and Flynn (who's goofing, which I'm reacting to, in the shot Miles took of us at "brunch"...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

POETS

Shot of me with Bette Bland, Rachel E. Diken, and John White (who blew us all away) after reading (and reciting) our poetry at the Orange NJ Music City Festival last Saturday. [photo by Lori Sutherland, I think]

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

MUHLAYSIA BOOKER R.I.P.

I didn't know Muhlaysia Booker personally. But her death has broken my heart in so many more ways than even the deaths of close friends and family members. Because she embodies all that I have written and demonstrated and fought to defend in the struggle for equal rights for all.

Not only was she obviously a beautiful young woman, but a transgender woman of color, the most likely segment of our population to suffer violence at the hands of mostly men, but unfortunately often with the support of some women.

Muhlaysia suffered an excruciatingly violent beating not long ago that was captured on video, which I find impossible to watch all the way through and even only seconds of watching unfortunately inspires in me a violent response, including fantasies of vigilantism, like beating the beater to as close to death as humanly possible. Now, Muhlaysia has been found shot to death (not that long after the beating, but after the beater had been released from jail!).

The police at the moment I'm writing have no suspect in custody, nor as far as I know have they announced any suspects (the beater has disappeared, which should create some idea of who might be a likely suspect). The saddest aspect of this for me is that the men beating Muhlasyia and the women egging them on were, like Muhlaysia, African-American.

The deep-seated fear and disdain and even hysteria that too many men and women have in response to transgender women (and men, but women in particular), is too often reinforced by just about every social norm as expressed in entertainment and news (how often do these murders, let alone beatings, appear in any news you pay attention to?) and everyday conversations and interactions.

Time for a broad movement to defend and support transgender women.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

THEN

a favorite photo of my first wife Lee and me just after we married in 1964,
I was 22, she was 21, and we'd only met once in person before we married,
though we'd been corresponding since we met at 18 and 17...
this was in Washington state where I was stationed in the military inland,
but friends, a college student couple, had spent their student loans on a boat we were visiting

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

ANOTHER FAVORITE OLD QUOTE

"...human affairs still continue to be the consequence of mistakes, misunderstandings, and myths."  —William Saroyan (from Days Of Life And Death And Escape To The Moon)

Monday, May 13, 2019

FYI

On this Saturday, May 18th, I'll be one of the poets reading from 3:30 to 5PM as part of The Music City Festival put on by The Free University of Orange at the HUUB, 35 Cleveland Street, Orange NJ  

Also on the same day, May 18th, but at 7PM I'll be reading my poetry, and Rachel E. Diken will be reading hers, at ANT Bookstore & Cafe, 345 Clifton Avenue, Clifton NJ

Hope to see you there (and/or there)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

HAPPY DAYS TO ALL

This has always been my favorite photo of my mom, taken in the 1920s before I knew her (I came along in 1942, the last of a brood that began n 1926 the year after she and my father married), but the same eyes I still see in my mind when I think of her, and she passed in 1966, on Mother's Day (or the night before) the way I remember it.  I had been away in the military for the previous four years so never really got to talk to her as an adult, the way I later wished I had. So many questions left unanswered and things left unsaid. But from my side, I still talk to her in my head.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

ALMOST SEVENTY YEARS AGO

my three oldest brothers and me c.1950 when I was 8
the friar (the oldest of my siblings, Tommy, soon to be Father Campion)
and the next oldest Jimmy (who we called Buddy) in the white shirt
had both been in the military at the end of "the war" (WWII)
and both had attended college on the G.I. Bill
and both were hip musicians ("reed men") and I adored them,
the third, for some reason known by his middle name Robert,
would soon enter the army, and then become a teamster and later a cop,
he was my tough guy hero as a boy,
all three long gone now,
(between them were two sisters, Joan, also gone, and Irene, still with us
and a brother, John, who died as an infant)
and then me looking angry, probably because
I wasn't looking as sharp as them, forced to wear the pants our grandmother
(who lived with us)
made for me,
and she probably made the shirt as well,
which I could not complain about without hurting her and I would never do that  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

KENT STATE AND JACKSON STATE MASSACRES

Today is the anniversary of the killing of college students at Kent State in Ohio in 1970. Eleven days later on May 15th 1970, there was another massacre at Jackson State in Mississippi. These two events were turning points in the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, emblematic of the disproportionate force the authorities were willing to use to stop young people from organizing against an unjust war and racism. I have a poster we made from these two photos somewhere in my archives that hung on the walls of my homes for many years with the message: NEVER FORGET! I haven't. [And yes, those are police bullet holes in the Jackson State photo.]


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A HUMBLE SUGGESTION


Every month is "poetry month" to me, but in these last minutes of the officially designated "Poetry Month" I thought I'd make a pitch for buying my latest book published one year ago, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017, a selection from a lifetime of poetry. If you already own a copy, buy one for a friend (here's a link to the distributor), and if you like it add a review somewhere online or off.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

JOYCE JOHNSON'S THE VOICE IS ALL

I've been a fan of Joyce Johnson since 1983 when she published MINOR CHARACTERS, a memoir about being Jack Kerouac's girlfriend during the two years in the mid-1950s when he went from obscurity to overwhelming fame. It was so insightful and fair-minded and concise, it made other books about Kerouac and The Beats seem sometimes overdone.

THE VOICE IS ALL came out in 2012, but I only read it just now after finding it in an old used book store I had never been to before. Reading it returned me to the pleasure books first gave me. I didn't want to put it down. But then, I'm still a fan of Kerouac's writing and spent a lot of my life collecting his books and those about him.

I know some who loved him once and feel they've outgrown his work and now see it as an adolescent taste. But the poetry of his prose as well as the struggles he went through in his life and the challenges he was often defeated by still resonate with me, and this book of Johnson's, THE VOICE IS ALL, explains for me why. She sets the record straight in ways that answer a lot of my own objections and caveats concerting the realities of Kerouac's life and writing.

She begins by explaining that she wrote it because she had been interviewed for other biographies and studies of Kerouac and/or "The Beats" and had not liked the way her words were misquoted or taken out of context or used to score points she disagrees with. She wanted to tell the truth about Kerouac and his work as she saw and experienced and researched it. And she does just that, and much more.

She only covers Kerouac's life and work up until 1951 (though she refers to later incidents and writing to back up some of her points) when as she sees it (me too) Kerouac found his voice, the one that changed not just the course of American literature but American culture and more. She gets to the heart of it, starting with the fact that Kerouac grew up speaking and thinking in a form of Canadian French that impacted his life and work forever.

There's a lot more I could say but I'll leave it at this: If you are a fan of Jack Kerouac's writing, read THE VOICE IS ALL.  

Thursday, April 25, 2019

THEN

One of my favorite family photos. Unfortunately our brother Buddy isn't in it, but that's my mother, my oldest sister Joan, our maternal grandmother Dempsey, my oldest brother Father Campion (Tommy growing up) and my sister Irene, with my father down front his hand touching his two most troublesome children, me about to be, my brother Robert just becoming a cop and about not to be (troublesome that is) anymore, on Snyder Avenue in Belmar NJ summer of 1953?

BEYONCE'S HOMECOMING

HOMECOMING, Beyonce's Netflix documentary about her 2018 Coachella performance that celebrates the culture and traditions of black colleges through music and dance is it. Brilliant. If you aren't impressed and impacted by the dance, music, discipline, female power, and unique celebratory spirit of the performances and movie making, your soul is in deep freeze. All hail Beyonce (and all her collaborators).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

CAPERNAUM

This Oscar-nominated film (Best Foreign Film) got kind of overlooked because of all the attention (deserved) to ROMA. But CAPERNAUM deserves to be at the top of a lot of lists for awards as well. The story of a mistreated little boy (his guess is he's twelve though he has no papers to prove it) in a family that defines dysfunction and a world that defines neglect and abuse, yet who survives despite all.

The artistry of the moviemakers, including the actors (some of them first-timers), had me thinking it was a documentary at first, or totally improvised, but it's a well-made story that works so well it breaks your heart and then mends it a little. So well worth watching.

Monday, April 22, 2019

EASTER OUTFITS

I had never seen this photo until my cousin MaryLynn posted it yesterday. It's me in the hat, next to MaryLynn, her sister RuthAnn, and their late brother David. They lived next door so all four of us were in each other's houses or yards or lives a lot of the time growing up. This is either Easter of 1955 or 56. I was proud of that outfit because I bought it all myself on earnings from a newspaper route, made me feel like a man, though I was either twelve or thirteen.

Friday, April 19, 2019

LYRA MCKEE R.I.P.

I didn't know her, but wish I did. Another tragic victim of gun violence gone too soon. This time an Irish journalist LGBTQ activist. This shite is so unfair, it dwarfs the supposed and warped politics behind most gun terror, whether personal or group inspired. Too feckin' sad.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

THEN

As I understand it, this shot was taken by Stanley Kubrick in the mid-1940's, when I was a boy. There were many attitudes and laws and situations of that time to protest against, but it's the world I was born into and the styles (clothes, cars, etc.) of that time still bring me comfort when I see them in an old movie, or photograph like this one.

Monday, April 15, 2019

UNLEASHED (2016)

UNLEASHED (the one released in 2016, not earlier films with that title) is a perfect example of light entertainment. Writer/director Finn Taylor creates a silly romantic comedy to basically showcase the actors in it, especially the star, Kate Micucci, whose sweetly appealing character and surprising screen charisma make space for the rest of the cast to do their thing.

Sean Astin, never a disappointment in any role, is one of the actors that make it worthwhile. As are Steve Howey and Justin Chatwin (from SHAMELESS). But everyone's great in this pleasant little bit of escapism about a single woman whose pet dog and cat turn into almost ideal men.

If you're looking for a diversion from reality's disappointments, check it out.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

HEDY STRAUS'S OFFERING

Every month is poetry month to me (and Black History Month and Women's History Month and etc.), but here's the first poetry book I read that was published in 2019 and have been meaning to recommend. I didn't know Hedy Straus's work until her brother John gave me OFFERING (Sugartown Publishing) as a gift thinking I might dig it. And I did, and do.

She had me at the first stanza of her first poem ("I Am"):

I am from the sacred heart of Jesus
buried deep inside a kreplach
I am from jelly donuts after mass
on the way home from shul
I'm from matzoh
and the Irish soda bread of affliction
I'm wandering in the desert
looking for my catechism class


That poem, and others, go on to further delineate Straus's combined ethnic and religious heritage and histories and what it means to come from that as, among other things, a woman, a lesbian, and a poet, all articulated clearly, often lyrically, and most satisfyingly. OFFERING is a delight.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

ME & MY SIBS

me & my siblings c. 1943
top row third oldest, William (but we called him by his middle name Robert)
oldest, Tommy (after ordination known as Father Campion O.F.M.)
and second oldest, James (we called him Buddy)
first row my oldest sister, Joan,
my second oldest sister, Irene,
(there was another brother John who came next but died in infancy)
& me
(Irene and me the only ones still alive)