Monday, June 29, 2015


Didn't know poet David Gitin well but the few times I was around him he, and the poems of his I liked, made it clear to me he was a good guy, and a good poet. Here's two that sum up my impression of him pretty well:


chuckle down fear

year after year

smile like a porpoise


eucalyptus outside my window
sunlight plays on the floor

yesterday's papers
motes of dust

sudden green
of Betty's blouse

Sunday, June 28, 2015


"Happy Pride, Michael.....I will always consider you a gay pioneer...xo xo"
—Michael Ferri (referring to me, in response to a comment I made on a photo of him and a fellow member of Skyline Faggots, a pioneering gay activist collective in DC in 1972, when my first wife and I also lived in a commune with our two children and mostly lesbian feminist activists and were experimenting with our "sexual" identities, partly in support of the burgeoning movement for gay and lesbian rights)

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Ted Berrigan, Tim Dlugos, Penelope Milford, me, my daughter Caitlin and Michael O'Keefe (edge of photo smiling) are who I can identify in this photo at my second wedding (this one to P.M.) eating the wedding cake, 2/14/82 at J.S. Vandam's NYC.
Me, Terre Bridgham, Athena Greco (?), my daughter Caitlin and the late Tony Greco at his (and his wife and my old friend Suzanne's) home in Pacific Pallisades c. 1986
Terence Winch, me and Doug Lang, Washington DC c. 1988?
me and my lady Kim at Largo in West Hollywood (before a Poetry in Motion reading) c. 1990?
Eve Brandstein, me and Kim same table (mine) at Largo at another Poetry in Motion reading (Eve was my partner in starting and running that weekly poetry series) c. 1991?
My wife Jaina, Simon Pettet, me and ? at Karen Allen's home in The Berkshires for my 60th b'day party May, 2002

Jeff Coleman and me in South Orange NJ c. 2012?

Monday, June 22, 2015


Every now and then a film is made about older people. Seniors. Lately it seems almost like a cluster (well, at least two). I always mean to catch them and sometimes do and sometimes don't. But this one, I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, I did check out and wasn't disappointed.

Maybe reflective of a lot of seniors' lives, a lot of any people for that matter, I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS is understated, mild, more dramatic in how often it doesn't supply the capper, the bon mot, the expected (at least for drama) conflict and resolution. No tied-up-with-a-ribbon Hollywood story games, or at least not much.

But because the script is so not pushy and the directing and acting pretty self-contained, with Blythe Danner's star turn a quiet tour-de-force, I enjoyed every minute of it. And so did the way-not-senior friend I saw it with. Something for everyone, Mildly.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Look at the way his fedora is cocked as he stands to the side of his brood, those of us still living at that point (a baby, John, born between me (in my mother's arms) and my sisters had passed), the oldest of whom was on his way to WWII (he never made it to any action, thankfully, but no way my father could have known when this photo was taken) and the second older one (behind me) soon to follow (he was on Okinawa toward the end of the war).

My father was a seventh-grade drop out yet found a way to support this whole gang. Pretty impressive dad. No, I mean Very impressive dad. Sorry I never told you that while you were still here.

Friday, June 19, 2015


it's in the DNA of the country and society Lisa, from the founders compromising to get the slaveholders to go along, to bending over backwards to make the South feel ok about being defeated so pretending it was some sort of "honorable cause" etc. which was pushed in the culture, songs, books, movies, etc. (I love Westerns and can tell you that with a handful of exceptions the thousands of them made in Hollywood from silents to the 1960s always portrayed the Southern ex-rebs as trustworthy and honorable and remnants of a noble cause and culture etc.) so the question is, how, despite all the support that has gone into making racism acceptable in our politics and culture did we get to a place where a majority of voters who went to the polls in the last two presidential elections voted for a so-called "black man"...?...because logic and reason and goodness won over hatred and bias and lies and deliberately distorted propaganda from the right etc. seems pretty much like progress to me (not to mention when I was engaged to a "black girl" in 1961 we couldn't legally marry in most states etc. etc. etc. etc....the fight is to use all the anti-terrorism propaganda and laws etc. to get violent racism labeled as the terrorism it is so websites that promote it and gun companies that sell to those who profess it etc. etc. can be prosecuted and eliminated (as it is now it's reminiscent of the old J Edgar Hoover FBI days where they chose to ignore the Mafia as a threat to our society because they were too much of a challenge to take on and instead targeted anti-war and Civil Rights activists etc....

Thursday, June 18, 2015


At Sammy's Bowery Follies when I was 16 (in a goofy hat and mustache I hated putting on) holding hands with my cousin Rosemary, who lost her father young so spent a lot of time in my house and was like another older sister to me, the other woman, Mary Phyllis, was also at our house a lot and like another big sister (they were around 23-24) NYC 1958
my then lady Joan, me, my brother "Buddy" and my sister-in-law Catherine c. 1986 Santa
Monica (all passed on now, except for me)
Eric, Miles, Carol and me, Santa Monica c. 1988?
Anne, Cubby, me, Jack, Eve, Lotus, Joel (back row), Tommy, Katey, Yvonne, Michael, Robert, M.K., Miriam, Michael and Caroline (front rows) at Largo (for Poetry in Motion which I started with Eve and co-ran for our first eight years) in West Hollywood c. 1990?
me, Beth, Lynne and Bill c. 1992 Washington DC
me, David, Bara and my then lady Crystal, Malibu, c. 1994
Nick, me and my wife Jaina, Great Barrington c. 2003
Miles, me, Flynn, Donovan, Elizabeth and Caitlin, Great Barrington c. 2007
Terence, Willy and me NYC c. 2013
Susan, John, Bob and me (in my brief "English Bob" phase) NYC 2014
Caitlin, Miles and me, Great Barrington 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


One of the most interesting and unique human beings you could ever want to meet has passed and her like will never be seen again. Here's the best tribute to her from one of her ex-husbands, poet Simon Pettet.

Monday, June 15, 2015


The other night in The Berkshires at my reading I met Mark Olshansky, an 85-year-old needlepoint artist who glowed with the aura of an artist at his peak. Least that's the way I received his energy. Plus he was a pleasant conversationalist and seemingly sweet guy.

His story is interesting because he picked up needlepoint late in life and then gave it up for two decades and picked it back up right where he had left off and now has been at it for a while working, as I understand it, pretty much every day, as most of my creative friends and me do.

I usually love creative people, simply because we are compelled by forces beyond, again usually, what may be the "normal" human impulse to create. It doesn't seem to be a choice for most of us, we just don't feel right with our world on any given day without working on whatever it is we create.

And I love most of all the obscure creators who don't have worldwide audiences or big reputations or access to huge audiences or don't get noticed by the big collectors or producers or publishers or etc. but still continue to do the work, appreciated by those who know them or who stumble onto the work or who discover it by meeting them at a poetry reading and then googling them and finding a site, like this one, where you can get some kind of take on what they're doing until you can experience their work in person.

Mark Olshansky's work has been in art shows and begun to get some attention but he's still a rare treasure to be discovered for most of us, and I'm glad I have.

[PS: I believe the above work is called "Mona Lisa" and yes I know the end of the second paragraph should grammatically be "I do" not "me do" but I like the way the latter sounds better...etc.]

[PPS: Mark has informed me the picture if of "Mona Lisa's Kid"!]

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Bob Chartoff was a Hollywood producer unlike any other I ever had anything to do with, or for that matter anyone I ever had anything to do with. He was enormously successful (co-produced Rocky, Raging Bull and The Right Stuff to name a few), but despite the kind of acclaim and fortune that often makes people, especially in show biz, act entitled or just dominate any scene they're in, Bob was one of the kindest and most humble persons ever in my experience.

I met him not long after I moved to Hollywood with a script I'd written about when I was in the military and stationed in then legally segregated South Carolina while in love with an African-American girl and chose to ignore the local laws, unwritten or on the books, as well as the local customs and lore. Arrogant of me I realize now, but righteous.

Bob loved it and tried hard to get it made and to get me other opportunities to write screenplays and get them made. It didn't happen for whatever reason (I like to think it was because I was ahead of the curve, but it may also have been because unlike Bob I was often defiantly self-important back then). At any rate, along with a woman who became a good friend and also managed me for a while, and Bob's closest friend, Jo An Kincaid, I spent wonderful times in Bob's company either in his home or elsewhere and never felt I was with a Hollywood V.I.P. but rather with a decent and bright person who treated me and everyone else, as far as I could see, as equals.

I was always grateful to Bob for responding to my script with the highest praise and trying to get it made (and to Jo An for the same), and am happy he had such a long and successful career at something he loved. We all should be so lucky. Here's a shot taken, I think by Richard Halsey, the great film editor, of Bob and me (in the oversized coat I used to wear as some sort of anti-Hollywood glamour thing, as I remember) at the peak of our friendship. Rest in peace Bob.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Up in The Berkshires for a reading from Swing Theory last night at Geoff Young's Gallery in Great Barrington, which was one of those perfect moments for me when the work I was reading and those listening came together to complete what I intended when I first wrote it. There were old friends and new, and both my daughter Caitlin and older son Miles and my grandson Donovan and a few of his friends, in the the crowd that was the perfect size to fill the gallery.

I've been unable to get my computer connection working till now after spending the day, so far, amid the natural beauty of "the Shire" listening to the wind in the trees and bird sounds both similar at times and different from those back in Jersey, the sky bright blue and unhazy after last night's thunder storms which held off until after the reading, so the views riding through the hills and mountains are cinematically spectacular.

Ah, how fulfilling life can be sometimes, especially when we're open to accepting the gifts it has to offer.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Just a quick post to say my latest book, Swing Theory, made it to number four on the Small Press Distributor (SPD) poetry bestseller list. Not The NY Times, but good enough for this old poet.

PS: My publisher was unable to get Wikipedia to add the new book to the entry on "Michael Lally (poet)" someone made there years ago, or to get the great review David Lehman wrote of it on The Best American Poetry blog. If anyone out there knows how to make that happen, they'd appreciate it.

PPS: Also, any reviews on Amazon would be appreciated.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Maybe it's age, but as soon as the end credits started running for LOVE & MERCY, tears filled my eyes. You'll have to see it and stay for them to get it, but please, do. I found the direction of this movie really compelling. And the main actors—Paul Dano and John Cusack as Brian Wilson at different points in his life, and Elizabeth Banks as his last wife and Paul Giamatti as the Svengali Dr. Landy—as well.

When The Beach Boys first put out records I was playing jazz in clubs and an elitist about the music. The Beatles helped me rediscover rock'n'roll when I saw IT'S BEEN A HARD DAY'S NIGHT. But I pretty much dismissed The Beach Boys as California lightweights until a musician friend pointed out that their harmonies were like the WASP version of Gospel music. Like high Episcopalian choral music, Bach Chorale stuff.

I re listened to them and started to appreciate the musicianship in their singing. But it wasn't until my older boy Miles, who spent his teen years surfing the beaches The Beach Boys sing about, sat me down and made me listen to Brian Wilson's mastery in constructing songs and writing lyrics that I finally got it.

I was living in L.A. when Brian was going through the traumas that led to his allowing Dr. Landy to take over his life, and was rooting for him to liberate himself from that, which is a big part of LOVE & MERCY.

Wilson's eventual resurrection and fulfillment makes for one of the most satisfying biopics ever. I dug it so much I intend to go back and see it in the theater again before it moves to the smaller screens. I recommend you do the same.



Watched this flick tonight (last night now) on Turner Classic Movies just because it was directed by Fritz Lang and came out in 1943 when I was a toddler. WWII movies always interest me, partly because I had two brothers in the military during the war (though one never left the states the other was on Okinawa) and I grew up with the newsreels and magazine articles and ration books as a big part of my consciousness.

The first exceptional thing about the movie was in the opening credits with the screenplay credit for "Bert Brecht" and another writer who had to translate Brecht. (Robert Osborne, the knowledgeable movie historian who hosted this showing explained afterwards that Brecht claimed only one scene he actually wrote ended up in the finished film, and of course the scene is mostly in German.) Brecht was a fellow German, like Lang, refugees from Nazism.

The film used the Hollywood conceit of having any dialogue in German be in German and the rest of the dialogue supposedly in Czech be in American English. Bertold Brecht (I like the way Hollywood made him "Bert") was one of my favorite writers when I was a young man, so the film kept my interest even when it was over baked.

But despite the stilted title and over simplification in some of the plot and dialogue and ideas in the movie, it is always incredible to see what audiences were actually watching while the war was being fought and millions of people were dying in the bloodiest conflict in my lifetime.  For me, it was well worth watching as a bit of movie history, let alone world history.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


If anyone is in The Berkshires
anywhere near Great Barrington
next Friday, June 12th
poet, publisher and art lover/expert
Geoff Young
is throwing a book party/reading
for my latest, Swing Theory
at 5:30PM in his gallery
upstairs at 40 Railroad Street.
Hope to see you there.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


If you know a teacher, or anyone concerned with teachers, or anyone who loves good poetry or books that dig into the challenges of work from a worker's point of this book and give it to them, even if it's just yourself.

In LIVELIHOOD, Phoebe MacAdams writes poems about her experiences as a teacher, a few about teaching in an elite school with privileged though still humanly portrayed students, but most about subsequently teaching in a huge "inner city" school in Los Angeles.

The poems are variously, and sometimes simultaneously, poignant, humorous, insightful, engaging, original, entertaining, informative, dramatic, narrative, lyrical, enlightening and moving. Each articulates what it's like for a sensitive, intelligent, mature and brilliant woman to face the challenges a teacher faces under trying and sometimes tragic circumstances—and always humbly, honestly and humanly.

Here are just two samples:


This month
four students have been killed:
Steve and Frank shot by random bullets,
Mercy killed by a hit and run driver
and last night, talking to Jeffrey
and his family at back-to-school night,
I heard about his best friend, Mario,
shot last week.
Jeffrey put his head down,
eyelashes filled with tears.
Jeffrey writes poems
about forbidden passion
and fighting fires, which he loves.

Dianna moved out of her house,
away from her alcoholic mother
and abusive father. She is having twins.
Lydia's mom has cancer.
This is a hard season for my students,
who grow anyway.
This is for them.


Nobody could tell me anything
when I was young.
            I knew it all and
            followed the poets
            to Paris, Tunisia, Algeria,
            New York, and San Francisco.
I had two children,
a nervous breakdown, a divorce,
but it was okay.
            I settled down, wrote poems,
            taught school.
            I remarried. We bought a house and
            last week I bought a new car.
Now I don't know it all
or even much.
I welcome all advice.
            Sometimes I try to advise my students
            but now they, too, know it all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015



Several friends recommended this movie to me when it came out last year but it came and went so fast in my local theater I missed it. Caught it tonight on cable and can see why they liked it and thought I would. I can't say the ending left me satisfied, and the plot, though full of unexpected twists, was still a little too obvious at too many points for my taste.

Yet and still, as we used to say, CALVARY is a masterpiece of filmmaking in many ways, especially in yet another masterful performance by Brendan Gleeson, and a cast of characters played by actors you'll recognize from a lot of movies (e.g. BRIDESMAIDS) and TV (e.g. GAME OF THRONES) whose performances are mostly impressive. And the Irish landscapes come to life on screen are extraordinary, as they often are in person.

CALVARY's themes bring up but don't resolve almost all, incredibly, the contradictions let alone confusion wrought by the changes in Ireland over just the last two decades or so (being the first country in the world to democratically vote to make same-gender marriages legal being just the latest), but not very subtly. The characters themselves are aware of their own obviousness, but still enact the new cliches that have replaced the centuries-old ones.

It's not an easy movie, despite it's beauty and Gleeson's impeccable, as always, performance. And that may be in the end its strongest attribute. Definitely worth seeing and arguing over.