Thursday, December 2, 2021

THE HEIGHTS

 
Three years ago this month, me reading at Beyond Baroque In Venice CA, on a "national" tour for my last book, Another Way To Play: Poems 1960-2017. One of the top great poetry reading experiences of my life. [photo by Cheryl Bianchi]

Saturday, November 27, 2021

BIRTHDAY BOY MILES

 
Me and my first son, Miles, in 1975 when he was still five and I was single parenting him in lower Manhattan with the help of friends and lovers...

...and Miles and me and Taffy in front of the house we are now sharing (along with his partner, Hannah) in upstate New York a couple of weeks ago before we got covered in snow today, his 52nd birthday... 

 

Friday, November 26, 2021

STEPHEN SONDHEIM R.I.P.


 "Stop worrying if your vision

Is new.

Let others make that decision—

They usually do.

You keep moving on."

—Stephen Sondheim (from "Sunday In The Park With George")

Thursday, November 25, 2021

HMMM...

 
My late cousin Paddy Lally in front of the cottage where my paternal grandfather, also Michael Lally, grew up outside Athenry in County Galway, Ireland. Paddy was the last one to live there before it began to crumble after he moved out and there was no longer a constant peat fire going to keep the moisture that rots out. I come from people indigenous to a land that was invaded and taken over by colonizers which led the the genocide too often called "the famine" (the English and Irish Protestant landlords didn't starve). Any descendant of Irish Catholic immigrants who doesn't mourn and honor and work to redress the genocide and colonization of indigenous people in the "Americas" betrays their ancestors and heritage.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

ROBERT BLY R.I.P.

In the mid-1960s I sent Robert Bly a poem of mine for his magazine The Sixties (called The Fifties when he started it back then) and got a smartass rejection letter back that I responded to with a smartass poem. After four years as a low rank court-martialed serviceman in the military I had gotten fed up with poetry editors treating me and my work like we didn't know what we were doing, so I used the G.I. Bill and applied to the U of Iowa Writers Workshop to get credentials I could flash to show I knew all their tricks and supposed knowledge about poem creating but I was doing it my way with full understanding of the literary traditions and standards I was choosing to either reject for/or transpose into my own original ones. I was unique among my fellow grad students who mostly graduated from prestigious colleges in that I hadn't graduated from any yet (Iowa let me work on a BA and MFA at the same time).

Bly had attended the U of Iowa Writers Workshop earlier, but downplayed it because even though Iowa was the first, "Workshop" MFAs were seen as a sign of poetic conformity, a kind of cookie-cutter poetry/writing factory product. But I worked hard for mine, and not just writing papers and passing tests I had to get A's on to be allowed to continue to work on two degrees at once while I held several part-time jobs and was a husband and father and newspaper political columnist and reviewer and ran for sheriff on The Peace and Freedom ticket and more, so I owned my degrees. Although my scheme didn't work as, even after all that editors and publishers and critics and reviewers and some fellow poets continued to treat my poetry as inferior to what they judged as worthwhile.

But over the years I continued to run into Robert Bly or his poetry, I liked some, until the last time I saw him in Irvine California the year the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize. His people had organized a weeklong conference called Harmonium Mundi, with panels during the day that included monks and priests and ministers and psychologists etc. discussing various topics searching for agreement, and at night in a huge arena cultural events that juxtaposed e.g. performances by a Russian traditional peasant chorus followed by a Japanese Noh orchestra and a William Blake poem read by Allen Ginsberg (we had lunch with my only son then the day Allen was there) or a Rumi poem read by Robert Bly.

I agreed to MC the nightly events only if they let me organize a night of poetry, which they did, but that's another story. Anyway, the night Bly was reading Rumi, we ran into each other backstage, me assuming he didn't know who I was, but as I walked past him to go on stage he whispered, "Thank you Michael," which stopped me. I said, "What for?" and he said "For all you do for poetry." I wasn't sure what he was referring to but it made me feel good.

Bly was a controversial figure in the poetry world, and some poets dismiss his work as too egocentric or unwoke or slight or a lot of other negative judgments, but I remember a couple of great anti-Vietnam war poems he published before almost any other poet did and that "Thank you Michael" and so say "Rest In Poetry" Robert Bly, with condolences to your family, friends, and fans.

(C) 2021 Michael Lally