Tuesday, February 28, 2017


This Thursday, March 2nd, I'll be one of two featured poets—the other Julie Maloney, founder of Women Who Write—at the Montclair Monthly Poetry Series, at 7PM in the auditorium of the Montclair Public Library, 50 South Fullerton Ave., Montclair NJ. After we read there'll be a break and then an open mic until 9.

Monday, February 27, 2017


Me and my friend, poet Rachel Diken, doing our Hollywood poses in our Oscar outfits (my tie has bleeding, or crying, hard to tell, books flowing down it) as we step onto the red carpet in Orange NJ for my pre-Oscar reading of poems and telling stories about finding my way (after losing it) in "Hollywood"...great event that I am so grateful to have done (and received a standing o for, with the organizer, author and scholar Mindy Fullilove, asking for the gathering's approval for giving me "the lifetime achievement award" (thanks Mindy))...later watching the Oscars two things hit me, first, that the expansion of the academy with newer members worked because I don't think I ever heard the announcer before say so repeatedly "first time Oscar nominee" and the other was that old people get thrown easier than younger ones (a la Warren Beatty's confusion when given the wrong envelope with Emma Stone's name and La La Land on it, obviously for her best actress win, and didn't know what to do for several minutes finally announcing La-La Land as the winner and then after they were on stage accepting the award people ran out to tell them it wasn't theirs, that the best picture winner was actually Moonlight, further proof the addition of younger members and more diversity in the membership has paid off....the best picture of the year definitely won this time...)...

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Today, between 5 and 7 as a pre Oscar event (including delicious food) I'll be sharing poems and stories about my experiences working in movies (and TV) as an actor and writer, including the seventeen years I spent living and working in "Hollywood"...35 Cleveland Street, Orange NJ...

Friday, February 24, 2017


Back when I started this blog, in 2006 I think, I also started my own yearly movie awards as a minuscule counter to the other yearly awards. I covered pretty much every category the Oscars did, and added a few of my own. But the brain operation removed my compulsion to make lists, so it became more and more work just to do what I originally was doing for fun, and I stopped.

But this year I was so blown away by MOONLIGHT, I wanted to acknowledge that, for my taste, it deserves just about every award possible, from acting (I'd give actors in this film awards in every category, including for Best Actor the three actors who played the lead character, Alex R. Hibbert, Aston Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, and Best Supporting to Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris) and directing and writing (Barry Jenkins so deserves this), to cinematography, editing and art direction.

And since I'm doing that, I thought I'd at least acknowledge other movies of 2016 that impressed me, if only for acting and directing.

Some of my favorite acting was done by:
Taraj P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, Kristen Dunst, and Mahershala Ali in HIDDEN FIGURES;
Annette Bening, Greta Gerwing, and Billy Crudup in 20TH CENTURY WOMEN;
Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, and Nicole Kidman in LION;
Emma Stone in LA LA LAND;
Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Birdges in HELL OR HIGH WATER;
Viggo Mortensen and the entire cast of CAPTAIN FANTASTIC;
the entire cast of SING STREET;
the entire cast of DON'T THINK TWICE (especially Gillian Jacobs);
Laura Linney in GENIUS;
Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, and Reginald De Courcy in LOVE  & FRIENDSHIP;
Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Matthew McConaughy in FREE STATE OF JONES;
the cast of CAFE SOCIETY;
Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS;
Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, and Bradley Cooper in WAR DOGS;
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Timothy Olyphant, and Nicolas Cage in SNOWDEN;
Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup in JACKIE.

And for directing I'd single out (after Barry Jenkins for MOONLIGHT):
Damian Chazelle for LA-LA LAND (also wrote it)
John Carney for SING STREET (also wrote it)
Richard Linklater for EVERYBODY WANTS SOME (also wrote it)
David Mackenzie for HELL OR HIGH WATER
Mike Birbiglia for DON'T THINK TWICE (also wrote it)
Gary Ross for FREE STATE OF JONES (also wrote it)
Whit Stillman for LOVE & FRIENDSHIP (wrote the screenplay based on Austen)
Matt Bass for CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (also wrote it)
Woody Allen for CAFE SOCIETY (also wrote it).

My brain's freezing up so that's it, let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


one of my favorite photos of my sister Joan, who died over thirty years ago at age fifty, after a lifetime of dealing with the impact of having been a child diabetic at a time when that was a death sentence, and then through medical progress was able to live much longer than expected but not without the debilitating side effects of medicines and procedures and whatever else led to her many critical illnesses including the heart diseases and cancers that contributed to her death...
she became an "executive secretary" after attending Catherine Gibbs, where she learned not just how to type fast and take stenography notes, but also how to dress and speak and act like an educated professional woman...
to me she was the most thoughtful and kind person in my life, especially after our mother passed, and despite our different personalities was always sympathetic to my struggles...
she is always in my heart and thoughts and I miss her daily...
[click to enlarge so you can see how beautiful she was]

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


My good friend, Doctor Mindy Thompson Fullilove, has invited me to read my poetry in a series called FAITH + WORKS, featuring people who share how their FAITH informs their daily WORKS, at The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County, New Jersey (very non-churchy, casual vibe). Since the date was the same as The Oscars Awards ceremony, she came up with the title HOLLYWOOD AWAKENING and this:

"In 1982 poet Michael Lally moved to L.A. to work in film and TV as a way of supporting the two children he was raising as a single parent. While enduring the challenges of trying to keep his integrity as an artist, but also pay the rent and put food on the table, Lally unexpectedly had a spiritual awakening. This surprising exploration of Hollywood will precede the Oscar’s and get us all in the mood for the awards ceremony! We will have a red carpet for you if you desire to attire!"

Sunday, Feb 26th, 5-7PM, 35 Cleveland Street, Orange NJ Parking in rear and on street. And as Mindy put it, along with "spiritual reflections" there will be "delicious refreshments."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I never met Larry Coryell but from what I heard from other musicians he was a really nice guy. He was also usually labeled a jazz guitarist who contributed a lot to the origins of what became known as "fusion" jazz, but he was so much more than that... in my opinion a lot of 1960s and '70s jazz, rock and other genres of music makers owed his technique and style for a lot of theirs (I'm talking to you Grateful Dead, and other jam bands, among others)... here's an example of the lightness and originality of his guitar mastery... condolences to his family, friends, and fans...

Monday, February 20, 2017


The other day I had to go to Newark airport which I hadn't been to in a few years. It was the United terminal, which I'm very familiar with having been in it many times since it was built. After parking you go in through the ground floor past the baggage claim area and up a short escalator to the second floor where you can check bags or get your ticket if need be and then there's two escalators going up to the next level where the gates are.

I'm used to going right up to the gate level, but there was a security guard at the bottom of the escalator on the second floor, and those devices they use for forming lines, with over a hundred people snaking through them, and then beyond that hundreds more people on a more or less straight line going all the way to the other end of the terminal, the length of a few city blocks. That's the one we had to go to the end of, but I noticed the second escalator going up to the gate level had two security guards and no line, so I busted my way through and went over to ask why.

The unpopulated line was for "premier customers"—maybe a term for first class and business class, or maybe for frequent flyers or something else, I didn't ask, I just got the visual and visceral reality of a two tiered system where if you're in the top category you breeze right through with no hassle, but if you're in the lower one, you're stuck on an endless line that represented not even 98 or 99 percent of the flyers at that moment but more like 99.9 percent or even more.

It seemed like a perfect metaphor, or maybe I mean example, of the ongoing and continually growing inequality of our society. Time to either make just one line, or if more, make them all equal.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Me as "Captain Bubb" on the DEADWOOD set, the first time I ever rode a horse, which I didn't tell the casting director but did the wrangler in charge of the horses on the show, so he gave me a very gentle, sweet one whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, but who I rode for three weeks almost every day, sometimes in the saddle for hours, even in one scene (that got cut) galloping into the town and jumping off, over and over again, doing it perfectly each time (the repeats were for technical reasons), thanks to this sweet fellow creature who I grew to love in those three weeks...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017



Lots of shit dies
Love doesn’t

Parts of me are
Already dead

But love isn’t…
My appendix

Dead and buried
My prostate and

A disc from my back
Dead and gone too

And parts of my brain
Cut out with the

Dime size foreign body
That got in there somehow

To cause so much trouble…
The twin towers died

And all those lost with them
Like a woman who was

Kind to me when
She didn’t have to be

Gone on one of those
Two planes, but

My love for her isn’t…
Five of my siblings and

Our old man and ma
Passed on now for awhile

But not the love we shared
When we were honest…

The mother
Of my oldest kids, my

First wife, gone, but the love
She and I shared never

Died, though maybe the
Like did…my first true

Love, too, the love of my
Life, gone now for almost

A decade, but my love for
Her, and hers for me,

Never died even thru
All of our husbands and

Wives and lovers over
The years when we

Were out of touch with
Each other, none

Of that stopped the
Love we both felt

And affirmed whenever
We spoke again like

The week before she
Passed still working

To help troubled kids
Find families, those

Kids still grateful for
The love she showed them

That’s still alive even if
She’s with the ancestors now…

Or other women I’ve lived
With who have passed on

Or lovers long gone
Like Joan B or Joe B

Her face so sweet and tough
Voice still admonishing me to

Just be myself and not
Worry what others think

His voice so quiet and
Stuttering in my ear as I

Write this, his image on
My bookshelves with his books

His art on my walls, I only wish
He’d lived long enough

To see it didn’t matter
How famous he did or

Didn’t become, his work
Living on among us

Who love it, exhibited
Often since he passed

Or Tony gone so recently
A young man who went from

Ripping doors off their
Hinges when he was

Upset with his wife and
Kids to the gentlest giant

Of many I’ve known
His ex-skinhead rages

Transformed as he turned
The pages of his life from

Anger to compassion
His punk Buddhist

Practice enabling him
To live with the rare

Brain disease that
Took his physical

Presence from us
But not the love we

Who knew him shared…
I think of him every day

As I do a lot who live
Now only in our hearts

Lots of shit dies, like

Almost everything that was
New when I was a boy

Including the people…
If you live long enough

So much passes it feels
Like another world…

But it’s the same one
Where love never dies…

—© 20013 Michael Lally (from my book SWING THEORY)

Monday, February 13, 2017


So I've been getting these assignments from friends on Facebook to post art as a break from politics  (who maybe haven't noticed that I've been doing breaks to post all kinds of creativity since the great catastrophe occurred), but of course I have to rebel from the assignments and choose my own art works like these three from one of my favorite artists (though you really need to see his work in person to get the full impact): Jean-Michel Basquiat

Friday, February 10, 2017


Tom Raworth was an English [Anglo-Irish, says Terence Winch, correctly] poet whose work fit into no categories. He was as unique and original a person as he was a poet. We first met in the late 1960s (if I remember correctly, no later than '71 anyway), and my first impression was my last: what a decent person he was.

Just one small recent example. One of his last emails to me was after poet Ray DiPalma died. Ray had burned a lot of bridges including with poets, once friends, whose earliest work Ray championed and published in his little magazine DOONES. Tom emailed me to commiserate over Ray's passing but also to say he had posted on his web site NOTES (see the list on the lower right of sites I recommend) his appreciation for Ray as a poet and artist, but first of all as someone who had supported Tom as a poet early on by publishing Tom's poems in DOONES.

Tom suffered from a heart condition that folks in our poetry world (back then the outside-the-academy-approved scene) whispered about with the supposition that he would die young. Maybe it was that ever present possibility that gave him the calm I remember him most for (being the exact opposite myself, I envied him and wished I could be like him in that regard).

Where I was always defending my right to even be a part of that world (having grown up in a very different one) which led to me overstating my importance in it, Tom seemed oblivious, or at least unconcerned, about status and recognition and other ego-related aspects of being a poet in the world. And he had the knack, or good fortune, to have the most innovative publishers making his books almost universally precious works of art in themselves (see LION LION or ACT among his early books).

I wish I had seen him more on his visits to the states (I met him when I lived in DC and he came to read and stay at my place) or had traveled to England more myself, but even in his presence he seemed amused though accepting of my frantic energy and volubility in ways that left little room for me to fully appreciate his presence anyway. Fortunately I've settled down over the years in ways that have left me even more appreciative of the gift Tom had for living life at its fullest while appearing, from my perspective at least, to be not taking it too seriously if seriously at all.

He had a good full life for someone so many of us expected not to be around even this long (he was 78, I believe) and summed it up best himself in his last entry on his site NOTES when he knew he had only days to live: "Bits of it all have been fun and it's been a decent run."

My heart goes out to all his family, especially Val, his friends, and his fans.

I'll leave you with this early poem of Tom's (from MOVING). I feel like he's still whispering it calmly in my ear, advice I couldn't hear from anyone else:


you are now
inside my head
better you were
inside your own

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Turns out I did scan the photo of my Irish immigrant paternal grandfather, also Michael Lally, in his keystone cop helmet as the first policeman in our Jersey town (as I heard it, badge number one) back in I assume the early 1900s.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Composer William Hellermann was a great guy and a totally unique creative artist. We were close friends for many years, mostly while I lived in NYC in the downtown 1970s early '80s exploding cultural scene. Bill was physically a legendary figure just walking around, sometimes wearing a cape, well over six feet, like six and a half feet, slim, elegant, funny, original, just a true treasure of the downtown scene when so much creativity was inspiring an entire generation.

I remember three performances of "compositions" of his that blew me away at the time and still do just remembering them. One took place in the sculpture garden of The Museum of Modern Art on a warm evening in Spring or Summer. Bill was an amazing guitar technician, but his piece "Tremble" performed that evening was more about stamina than technique. It was an exercise in sustaining notes.

He began at the top of the neck of the guitar, strumming rapidly and slowly, very very slowly, almost imperceptibly, worked his way all the way down to where the strings stopped, (and I think he would continue onto the body of the guitar itself, tapping it until he ran out of guitar). So that by the end of what I remember as a forty-five minute piece, his arm and hand were trembling, adding to the tremolo sound of the strings so slowly sliding down the scales from high pitched to below low. (Or vice versa, I saw him perform this more than once and my memory is of him doing it in either direction depending on the performance.)

Another totally original piece, I think called "Drip," took place in an art gallery (I no longer remember which one) downtown. When the audience was let into the place, we saw a series of hoses, like garden hoses, snaking throughout the gallery at various heights and below them a seemingly random array of various size pots and pans.

When everyone was settled in and completely quiet, Bill got up and slowly turned on a faucet which he manipulated throughout the piece to change the rate of flow of water and thus the sound of the various drops hitting the pots and pans the audience now realized were strategically placed under holes in the hoses to create various sized drops of water. It was one of his most tuneful pieces in this era as I remember it. Pure genius.

The third performance I no longer remember the name of, nor where it was, but the setting was a theater with a stage. A spotlight beamed on a fair sized object in the kind of soft case I used to use for my upright base when I played that instrument for a few years in my late teens, the kind that's padded and you unzip to remove. You could tell this wasn't a base, since it was shorter, maybe a cello?

Bill entered the stage, bent down to unzip the case and revealed an old wooden office chair, the kind with arms and that swiveled on a base that you could rotate and bend backwards or forwards etc.  And that you could find in the many mostly used office furniture stores along Canal Street, the center of commerce for the downtown scene in those days. I owned one of those chairs myself.

After removing the case, Bill sat his long lanky frame down on the chair and leaned back. The chair made the kind of squeak I was familiar with. He closed his eyes and slowly, again almost imperceptibly, leaned this way or that, and each slight shift of his body made a different toned squeak. It was another unique sound composition, something no one else had thought of but Bill (and yes I know it could have been inspired by John Cage who pioneered this kind of "natural" sound "music" composition, but Bill built on that legacy like no one else).

Bill also made works of art, I have some in my archives (at NYU if they ever digitize it and make it available), and always had some on my walls or bookcases (many were three dimensional, and almost all incorporated "music"—like various notes in plastic ice cubes in an ice cube tray etc.)... He was always a delight to be around, or maybe I should more realistically say, often a delight to be around. I loved hanging out at his loft and having him at mine. My friendship with him felt like a mutual admiration society, which was so necessary to my growth as a creative person.

My condolences to his family and friends and fans. Another light has definitely gone out in my world, but the memory still inspires.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


If, like me, you like based-on-true-events, up-from-obscurity, fish-out-of-water, or underdog-triumphs movie plots when well executed, you'll love HIDDEN FIGURES. It combines all of those and more. The casting and the performances are so right, there are times when the film almost feels like a documentary, despite the obvious plot-points of a story that may seem predictable, but transcends that with dialogue and performances that make almost every scene resonate with reality.

I was in the military, stationed even further South than the still segregated Virginia the movie takes place in, and during the same period. I rode on segregated buses and got in trouble for sitting in the back instead of up front with my fellow "whites." I refused to drink from the "whites only" drinking fountains, and more. I got run out of the state when the local sheriff insisted to my commander that I be sent away.

Not that I was brave, I was foolhardy actually, endangering the lives of others with my bravado actions, not realizing fully the extent of the brutality of the local racism that could have harmed others on the periphery of my behavior.

HIDDEN FIGURES brought back all the emotions raised when I first encountered official segregation in South Carolina in 1962, and the bravery of the African-American citizens of that time who faced this brutal oppression and violence every day of their existence, as so beautifully portrayed by the three leads in this film—Taraj P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Morae—with special kudos to Henson for an almost movie-stealing performance.

Other performers worth noting: Kevin Costner, Kristen Dunst (in a tour-de-force performance of a clueless racist's transformation), Jim Parsons and Mahershala Ali. Well worth watching.

Monday, February 6, 2017


This is the cover of a book-length poem I wrote c. 1990, with a reproduction of a postcard photograph of one of the most inspiring creative artists I've ever encountered or heard about: Marta Becket. There are sections in the poem that describe my experience making a movie in Death Valley over a period of weeks, during which the cast and crew stayed at the hotel Becket had revived and painted murals in all the rooms and hallways of, but had never let anyone stay in until us.

It was part of a bracket-shaped set of connected buildings in Death Valley Junction, a crossroads in the middle of nowhere that had been totally abandoned except for a gas station that would also soon be deserted when Becket and her then male companion and partner stopped to get a tire fixed in 1967 when she was a dancer touring the country doing one-woman shows, often in colleges paid for by student funds that were at that moment beginning to dry up for cultural entertainment like Becket's.

While the tire was worked on, she wandered into an end building that had been used for a hall for workers meetings and I believe even church services back in the days of borax "mining" (more like collecting) when the hotel section housed visitors stopping over during train rides from the East Coast to L.A. But in 1967 was falling apart, with holes in the ceiling and warped floors etc. She decided on the spot to make this crossroads her home and did.

She restored the hall, turning it into a theater she named The Amargosa Opera House, where she performed her one-woman show (later with the help of a male companion who acted as her comic foil). Because in the early years of this venture her shows often were performed with no audience, she painted the walls of the theater with murals depicting a packed house made up of Spanish royalty of the 1600s, jugglers and other entertainers, and the less royal, including Native "Americans" brought back to Spain.

It was one of the most amazing places I'd ever been, and her show one of the most uniquely inspiring. When I was there the audiences were packed with visiting gray-haired tourists from Las Vegas and beyond who arrived in tour buses, a result of the attention she garnered after Natioanl Geographic had done a short documentary about Becket her theater and her one-woman show. She was in her late sixties when I saw her dance ballet on point (as well as other types of dance), with the most beautifully articulated movements and poses, and then after the show sit on the edge of the stage to sign autographs and/or books and art work sold in a little shop attached to the theater.

She was obviously multi-talented and a true original. Perhaps the purest artist I ever met to heard of. She was 97 at her death, and had lived life on her terms, ignoring the rest of the world's standards and limitations for what an older woman should do with her life, or anyone for that matter. If you never heard of her, go find out who she was and what she did (Starting perhaps with the pretty good NY Times and L.A. Times obits here and here).

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Which, unfortunately, lately seems to be liars and cheaters end up winners. Time to put an end to that.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


I'm at a loss as to why this film garnered so many nominations and awards already (especially when there are so many other deserving yet unrecognized films this year). I found it pretty much unmemorable. There's good actors in it, and a well-intentioned script (though full of inconsistencies and forced plot-device coincidences, etc.), but ultimately the writing, direction, editing, and cinematography added up to nothing exceptional in the service of a story that is supposed to be uniquely exceptional.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


There's a photo of my paternal grandfather from the turn of the century (19th to 20th) in one of those keystone cops high rounded police helmets, but I can't find that at the moment, so here's one I've posted before and assume he gave to my grandmother, also an Irish immigrant, with a sweet sentiment. Partly what upsets me about the news commentators and others on the new "administration"'s "ban" is no one mentioning that The Founding Father documents mention the presence even then of Jewish, Muslim and non-believers in the country and accepts them as fellow citizens, meaning that there are Jewish, Muslim and atheist citizens of the USA whose ancestors were here generations before mine...and probably yours...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I was unsure what to expect with this film, and for good reason, it's not an easy movie to summarize in the usual glib "pitch" or ad. But it was worth seeing. Some good acting and interesting editing and pacing and writing (possibly accidental or unintended, but for me the rhythm of this flick seemed almost unique—a mini-trend in the movies of 2016, in terms of narrative drive being unexpectedly unpredictable, MOONLIGHT being at the top of that short list).

Annette Bening continues to rival Meryl Streep in range and longevity (if not in accents) at least in terms of the emotional spectrum if not in extremes of character types (no one beats Streep there). But as in JACKIE, the real pillars of understated realism were the performances of Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup (watch JACKIE and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN back to back and they'll seem like contenders in the who-can-transform-themselves-most-from-role-to-role competition, partly physically but mostly character-wise).

Also recommended if you lived through the transition from Carter to Reagan (foreshadowing our current situation). Carter's supposed "malaise" speech is partly shown as part of the plot and his prescience in it almost made me cry for our missed opportunity to better prepare for the future that is now.