Sunday, June 16, 2024

FATHERS DAY

Years ago, poet and dear friend Don Yorty filmed me in my then Jersey apartment home reading my poem tribute to my long gone father, called SPORTS HEROES COPS AND LACE. I wanted to repost it here, but my infirmities makes figuring out how to do that and then doing it extremely challenging (I've had to correct my mostly one-finger typing while writing this again and again etc.). It's on Vimeo, if anybody would like to hear it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MALACHY MCCOURT, JEROME ROTHENBERG, DAVID SHAPIRO,, TOM BOWER R.I.P.


We're halfway through the year, and I haven't marked the passing of some contemporaries (more or less). Partly because it's physically challenging these days (which is why I no longer post daily). First was Malachy McCourt, Frank's brother, who became famous first, as a raconteur bartender and popular guest on THE TONIGHT SHOW getting him backers for his own Manhattan bar, and later acting jobs in movies and on TV. 

Before Frank published his classic memoir ANGELA'S ASHES, I saw them both perform in the original version of that story, each playing multiple roles of the people in their Irish childhood, including women in kerchiefs and shawls, in a church basement to a small audience. Malachy later published his own memoir, A MONK SWIMMING, which came out around the same time as my poetry collection CANT BE WRONG, in the late '90s. We did a reading for the books in a San Francisco bar and restaurant. That's a photo of us with our friend the writer/scholar, and long gone Dan Cassidy (me with Dan on my left and Malachy my right).

Then two poet/scholars I knew passed, Jerome Rothenberg and David Shapiro. Jerome had a great impact on my generation of poets with his anthologies of world poetry focusing on the work of indigenous peoples. His own poetry impactful as well. When my SOUTH ORANGE SONNETS first came out in 1972, he sent me a postcard praising them (in my archives at NYU). He was a kind and gracious person.

David Shapiro had an impact on our generation as well.  We were both Jersey boys, but from such different backgrounds I was sometimes a bit chip--on-my-shoulder confrontational with him. He had the kind of articulate wit I didn't, and early success as a teen in the poetry world where he was admired as a "poet's poet" and in the academic world. But in the end we had much more in common than our home state and poetry (and music, him classical me jazz), including Parkinson's which he suffered from for many years with a kind of acceptance and even nobility which I can only aspire to.

And most recently Tom Bower, an actor I knew and greatly admired, and could fairly be called an "actor's actor" if he hasn't been already. You may not know his name but  you've most likely seen him in a movie or on TV. In my encounters with him, he was always so easy to get along with, both humble and grounded, never arrogant or self-centered as I could often be back in the day. I liked him and hoped he liked me.

May all of the above Rest In Prose, Poetry, Performance, and Peace.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

"COLLECTIBLE"

The event on  Saturday went wonderfully. The set up was perfect. Familiar Trees, the venue, is a small one-story building in Great Barrington  with two rooms, one the bookstore and the other an art gallery. The gallery, where the musicians and me were set up, has a garage door which was open so the audience mostly sitting outside could see us.

There was a great sound system including a great mic for me with a monitor in front of me so I could hear myself clearly and see by the audience's reactions that they were understanding what I was saying. In the over six decades I've been reading my poetry to audiences my usual m.o. is to bring a ton of poems and decide what I'll read as I'm reading, depending on the audience reactions.

Butt I can't handle books or stacks of paper very well anymore plus my uncontrollable drooling makes a mess of a book's pages or smudges the ink on paper copies. So my son Miles helped me pick the poems and printed them out in big type and put the pages in transparent plastic sleeves, which it turned out were easier for me to turn in the looseleaf binder he put them in.

He (on electric bass) and Brian Kantor (drums) were set up behind me and Wes Buckley (on guitar) off to my left, so I had nothing to distract me between me and the listeners, which included my other two kids, Caitlin and Flynn, in the first row cheering me on. After I opened with a relatively recent poem ("I Meant To") the musicians joined in, fabulously improvising until the last line of the last poem.

 We got a standing o and everyone, old friends new friends and future friends, seemed to have enjoyed it. Turns out it was recorded and there's even some iPhone video, which I will post when it becomes available. Though I think you had to be there to get the full impact. There were several extravagant compliments thrown around, but the best one may have been: "Now that was a collectible".

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

FYI

Overwhelmed with gratitude for all your birthday wishes. Meanwhile, if you're in the Berkshires this Saturday (I'm guessing my last in person poetry reading cause it's just becoming tooo difficult):



Tuesday, May 21, 2024

DREAM HEADLINE

 Newspaper headline in a dream last night:

7 INCHES OF SNOW EXPECTED IN BURBANK

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

MORE MEMORIES

 
There're no photos of my mother (the class of the clan who I adored) and me without one or more of my siblings around. Here's a good example c. 1954. Me in Hawaiin shirt with my three brothers to my right, Franciscan friar Father Campion (Tommy) behind our mother, music teacher Buddy (James), his wife Catherine with their baby Cathy down in front, and cop Robert, leaning over his wife Sis (Marie).

In front of me is my Grandma Dempsey, my mother's mother who lived with us, and my sisters Irene and Joan (with pixie haircut), our dad sitting on the arm of our couch. I grew up in a crowd.