Thursday, January 17, 2019

THE ACTUAL NEW POEM

Michael Schiavo emailed me my most recently published poem as it appears in his online poetry mag, The Equalizer, so I could share it (more cynical than I usually allow myself to be, this was written last year):




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

NEW POEM

I forgot to post about a new (2018) short poem that was published in the online poetry magazine The Equalizer (yes, like the Denzel Washington movie, only Michael Schiavo has been doing the mag since before the movie(s)).

It's the third incarnation of the magazine and it is huge (divided into sections that could each be an anthology), with some of my favorite poets (e.g. Geoff Young)  included, so well worth checking out. I can't get a direct link to my poem, and the magazine site won't let my limited technical skills copy and paste it.

So if you want to see it, go to this link and then to section 3.2 and page 69 to find it. (And fair warning, I was not feeling too positive when I wrote it.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

VICE

Christian Bale deserves whatever awards he wins this season for his portrayal of Dick Cheney at various periods of his life. And Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne Cheney, deserves her share of any award Bale wins too, because her impeccable performance only adds to the strength of his.

As for Adam McKay's direction, he repeats some of the techniques he used in THE BIG SHORT in VICE, but he also wrote VICE and though it's a pretty terrific history lesson about Dick Cheney's inordinate influence and impact on the wrong directions our country has taken in the last several decades, for me it could have been edited better.

But VICE is totally worth seeing, not only for Bale's and Adams' performances but definitely for them.

Monday, January 14, 2019

ROCKY REDUX

Ran into this the other day, the German edition (translator Udo Breger) of my 1975 Blue Wind Press book (second edition 1977) ROCKY DIES YELLOW.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

THEN & NOW

I saw where people were posting then and now photos and thought I'd share then and now drawings.
The first done by my good friend Don Bachardy in 1982 or '83, right after I moved to Santa Monica. He had me sit at his studio behind his and Christopher Isherwood's house in Santa Monica Canyon. I look sad partly because I was tired after sitting for hours while he sketched. It's a huge portrait I couldn't afford to buy, so this is taken from the photo of it Don gave me after it was completed.
The latest one, big but not quite as huge as Bachardy's, was done very recently by my good friend Tim Lyons, from a group photo taken at one of my recent California readings. Obviously a happier me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

LAST REMINDER

If you're anywhere near Montclair NJ Saturday, January 12th, at 7PM (that's tomorrow when I'm posting this but might be tonight when you're reading it), I'm taking part (as the featured reader and selling and signing my new book) in a Spiral Bridge open mic poetry reading resurrection, part of the Naked Reading series at Outpost In The Burbs at 40 South Fullerton Avenue. Come read a poem of your own or just to say hi.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

GREEN BOOK

On the most superficial level, GREEN BOOK (the story of a "black" pianist recording star being chauffeured through the segregated South of 1962 on a concert tour), is a  "feel-good" romantic comedy (the romance being a bromance between Viggo Mortensen's driver Tony Lip (Vallelonga) and Mahershala Ali's pianist Don Shirley), with lots of comic dialogue, and character and scenic exaggeration. If you view it that way, the movie's almost perfect (thanks to the outstanding cast led by the aforementioned stars and to the comedy director/write Peter Farrelly).

Crack the surface though, and you have some folks objecting to the perspective being Vallelonga's (though really the story is framed by his son Nick's memories and tapes of his father's recollections) rather than Shirley's (who was considered a musical genius by some contemporaries). And that alone distorts the reality of what Shirley endured and overcame as a "black" "gay" classically trained pianist in the South in 1962, which pisses off a lot of activists for racial justice and truth.

But I have lots of African-American and Italian-American friends who love the movie. And others who object to the stereotypes of the Italian-American "goomba" (as they used to say) or the major "black" character's behavior and attitudes being viewed from a "white" perspective. Shirley's family claims the portrait of Shirley the movie presents is false. And I can back that up, as I knew the man.

When my second oldest brother Jimmy (who the family called "Buddy") got home from WWII he decided to go to Catholic U in DC on The GI Bill to study music. He met Don Shirley there and they became friends and sometimes played together (my brother was "a reed man" mostly playing clarinet and sax, though he could play almost any instrument).

So right there the movie as reality fails, because it posits the film character Shirley as being totally naive about the segregated South even though DC after the war WAS the segregated South, and the suburbs surrounding it in Virginia and Maryland even more so. But my brother and Shirley and their friend Al Rossi (and I'm sure other returning WWII vets) were dismissive of segregation.

My brother married an Italian-American woman from DC in 1949, which scandalized our Irish-American clan at the time, so that probably influenced his attitude, I remember on our family's first trip to DC in '48 when I was six to meet his fiancé's family, he drove us past the main hotel for "blacks" with a huge lit-up sign on it's roof saying "THE WHITE LAW HOTEL." He wanted us to see how messed up legal segregation was and how folks found ways to object.

A few years later, my brother told me a story about Don putting on a woman's kerchief (I don't remember about the rest of his outfit, but the image of Don in a kerchief stuck with me) and the two of them getting on a segregated bus (or was it trolley then?) in DC and causing a commotion with their display of (fake) interracial dating.

I started playing piano at four and was pretty good as a kid playing classical and popular tunes and have a memory of playing for Don (which is what I remember he told me to call him) and him making me feel appreciated. Though I didn't reciprocate when in my late teens I saw Don play with his trio and bought his albums. At the time I only listened to "progressive" jazz and found all other music inferior, including Don's pop (to my ear at the time) styling of classical and jazz and pop songs.

The movie emphasizes the extreme differences between the two main characters, so only Tony can be loose and intentionally, outlandishly funny, while its version of Shirley is uptight and dry and aloof. The plot needs that contrast to have an arc for the characters and a reason for the film, otherwise it's just (as Shirley's family posits) the story of a "black" music star hiring a "white" driver for a concert tour (for a year by the way, not the two months the movie makes it for obvious dramatic reasons).

There is a reason Tony remembered this job, not only did he claim it changed his attitudes about race, but also it was a unique experience for him to work as a chauffeur (and bodyguard) for a "black" star. In his world that was an anomaly. Shirley's family insists it wasn't in Don's world, and thus for them the focus on this trip is overblown in relation to Shirley's life story.

Though I had a hundred quibbles with the supposed factual historic details (I was stationed in the military in legally segregated South Carolina when Shirley was on that tour with Tony and I played in "black" clubs, some of which were like the "black" roadhouse depicted in the film, but others were as fancy as any "white" establishments, same for the "black" hotels), I got immediately that the movie was a comic confection inspired by one man's experience (Tony Vallelonga) and it's impact on his son, and enjoyed it with the caveat that its version of Don Shirley was not the man I'd interacted with.

Monday, January 7, 2019

LA RADIO INTERVIEW

Here's the link to the archives of the LA Pacifica radio station where I was interviewed by Paul Leiber when I was out there but didn't air until yesterday. When you click on the page go to the search box and type in: Why Poetry. Then on that page click on January 6th and enjoy.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

THE FAVOURITE

THE FAVOURITE is on a lot of lists of the top ten movies of 2018 and some critics have it as the best of the year. Among my friends though the reactions are mixed, as is mine. No one I know or have read disputes the excellence of the acting by the three female leads or the gratitude most of us feel to have a film where the top three leads are all female.

Olivia Colman's role as the queen is especially brilliant in ways we've rarely seen in films before and never in a starring female role. My guess is she gets nominated for an Oscar. It was worth it for me to see it on the big screen because the cinematography is outstanding as well. Where the mixed responses come in is the writing.

Based on the actual history of three real women, including the rumors of the queen having an affair with at least one of them, the embellishments I could accept, for the sake of the story (e.g. the absence of the queen's husband in the entire flick, or the made up poisoning and being dragged by a horse etc.), but the inconsistencies always get me in scripts.

The most glaring one in THE FAVOURITE to me was Emma Stone's character's brilliance in out thinking and maneuvering the other two throughout the movie except for a giant lapse toward the end where she acts and behaves like someone without a clue. That kind of thing in a film or TV show always makes me squirm with embarrassment for the character, the actor, and the writer who set it in motion.

That's on the writers (first-timer Deborah Davis and TV writer Tony McNamara) and the director Yorgos Lanthimus. Still, there's enough gender role reversals in this film to delight anyone who's been longing for a wider variety of female types and behaviors on the big screen (though some women friends squirmed at female characters acting at times like the worst of male villains).

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

WOW

The first review of ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017 (only much more than a review) is the lead article on The Poetry Foundation's website front page today! Burt Kimmelman is a fine poet and scholar; it's an honor to have my poetry reviewed by him. Check it out here

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

FYI

On January 12th at 7PM the Spiral Bridge open mic poetry readings series will be resurrected for one night at which I'll be the featured guest reading from, and signing copies of, ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY: Poems 1960-2017. It's at Outpost In The Burbs, 40 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair NJ.