Sunday, December 31, 2017

R.I.P. 2017

Here are the poets—and those I consider poets in their own fields—who I knew personally, as they say—some slightly, some very well—who passed away in 2017 (in no particular order):

Joanne Kyger
William McPherson
John Sjoberg
Denis Johnson
Austin Straus
Harry Dean Stanton
John Ashbery
Tom Raworth
Jack Collum
Sam Shepard

[you can look up who they were
to me on my blog archives, and
if you don't know their writing,
you can go find some and read it
and be grateful, as I am, that they
lived to share what they created]

and two who I never met but saw perform
and whose lyrics were an early introduction
to, and influence on, what poetry could do:

Jon Hendricks and Chuck Berry

May they all Rest In Poetry

Saturday, December 30, 2017


my new hero, my new favorite speech, poem, expression, articulation, wake up call, inspiration, ignition....if you watch it to the end and aren't moved (even to tears as I was), well, I'm sorry for you...

Friday, December 29, 2017


I don't like to post quotes that don't have the place the quote is from, because there are so many obviously incorrect quotes attributed to famous people all over the web, but this sounds like it definitely could have been said or written by Georgia O'Keefe:

Thursday, December 28, 2017


One more day left for the seed funding phase of Rachel E. Diken's documentary about me and my life and poetry, thank you mucho for any contribution already made, and if not and you can spare something or know someone or some fund that maybe can, here's the link:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Directed by Guillermo del Torro (who also came up with the story and co-wrote the script with Vanessa Taylor), THE SHAPE OF WATER has his signature scenic lushness, with sets stuffed with ornate details and lighting dimmed to soften edges and the color palette mostly dark or drained so that the whole movie seems seen through a glass darkly...

...meaning the art direction is the dominant factor, which plays into the watery theme of the flick, a riff on THE CREATURE FROM THE DARK LAGOON, set at the height of The Cold War when that notorious creature feature first saw the light of the projector. But that's not the reason to see THE SHAPE OF WATER. The main reason, as for any movie she's in, is Sally Hawkins.

Once again her screen presence and acting chops allow her to have a maximum impact with what seems like minimum effort. She's a minimalist actor for sure, doing more with a slight half smile or twinkle in one eye (how does she do that?!) than most actors can do with an explosion of sobs or toothpaste-ad teeth-locked grin. (But is that a body double in her nude scenes or is she just aging better than anyone ever!)

And she's abetted by the almost always uniquely spooky Michael Shannon as the vile villain of the piece, and the almost always uniquely sympathetic Richard Jenkins as the hapless companion, not to mention the always uniquely perfect Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Talk about works of art, this is definitely one.

[PS: But it's important to remember, it seems, that this tale is a fantasy (I actually heard an audience member on the way out complaining to his female companion that some aspect of a nonexistent (in real life) creature "wouldn't be able to exist outside water for that long" etc.!)]

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


I always say "Poetry saved my life," because it did, and still does. Though I really mean all the creative arts do. So I'm going to try and spend even more time posting about individual and group creative efforts.

Below is a link to a new composition from one of the great creative forces of my lifetime and in my life, the composer Rain Worthington. Her first self-taught compositions back in the 1970s were mesmerizing and moving, for me, and her ongoing creations post music degree are always strikingly and unexpectedly familiar, or familiarly unexpected.

Her latest piece is an elegy for her recently deceased mother, who was a force of nature herself, a fiercely intelligent and independent woman back when that was almost a crime and continuing into her decline until dementia took its toll.

Here is the beautiful tribute to her mother's spirit from Rain Worthington (and listen to the end to get the full impact, it's only a little over five minutes):

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017


To all who have contributed to Rachel E. Diken's project to make a documentary about me and my poetry, thank you , thank you, thank you.

It is uncomfortable for me to continue to ask for donations to something that is about me, but my motive is simply to help Rachel with a project she is devoting so much time and energy to, and to help my publishers who have had faith in my work, especially Seven Stories who are publishing a very large collection of my poems (from 1960 to 2017) this coming April.

So if you know anyone, or any foundation or arts support groups, that might be interested in helping fund the documentary, please pass this information on. And thanks again for any attention you give this project:

Friday, December 22, 2017


me and my youngest child Flynn in New Jersey on Father's Day 2005 [photo by Jamie Rose]
me and Flynn at KBG Bar in NY c. 2010?
Flynn and me at Star Tavern in Orange NJ 2014
me and Flynn on Thanksgiving in Jersey 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


This movie is getting a lot of attention, some saying it's the best movie of the year. It isn't the best, in my opinion, but it's a hell of a cinematic ride. Martin McDonagh, the English born Irishman, who wrote and directed it (as he did one of my favorite movies IN BRUGES), knows how to create characters that actors can have a field day with and, as a director, knows how to give his actors enough room to go as far as they can and then pull them back just enough to make their behavior plausible.

This is an actors' movie. The plot is complicated and rich enough to keep an audience engaged and even more focused than most movies demand, and the editing and cinematography are terrific, but it's the actors who make this a special treat. Frances McDormand commands the screen and gives us a vengeful woman who seems written for this "me too" moment (though the screenplay is actually almost a decade old), and Woody Harrelson, as her foil, does his usual great job.

Everyone in the movie is fantastic and could be singled out for praise. Peter Dinklage in a role unlike any other we've seen him in, John Hawkes with a nuanced portrayal of what could have been an obvious stereotype, Caleb Landry Jones makes a lasting impression in another role that could have been cliched but instead is as uniquely individual as any film character ever.

But the real revelation for me is Sam Rockwell in the role of a redneck racist cop. Rockwell is not a favorite actor of mine. He usually seems miscast to me, like a one-note comedian trying to play Hamlet as a comedy. And my first reaction seeing him in this movie was that same feeling that he was miscast and then...he owned the character in such a deep way his place in the film and probably a nod in many awards nominations seemed justified.

Though there are many critics voicing disbelief that the character Rockwell plays could have the kind of story line he ends up having. These same critics are also objecting to the actors playing people of color not having as rich and fully dimensional characters as the white actors (a charge I find reasonable but also missing the point of this particular piece of cinema art in which fantastic plot points and comic/tragic mashups explore the heavy-handed humor of tragedy as farce, not nuanced political analysis).

See it for yourself, and I think if you appreciate great film acting you'll be glad you did.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Dems and progressives and leftists who think the tax bill means repubs lose the congress in 2018 maybe should remember how shortsighted most people are these days (and perhaps most days)...if the changes in deductions etc. bring some immediate gains in pocket money for many in red and purple states (and nothing else goes wrong which is a long shot, I know), which they could—even though those gains are eventually wiped out in years to come—they still might retain their hold on at least one house, if not both, continuing the destruction of the judiciary and any regulations hampering greedhead thievery of our national treasury and resources and economy etc.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


With the help of the Internet and my post-brain-operation skull machine, I have once again made a list as I used to compulsively do pre-brain-op constantly...this time of my ten favorite Christmas movies:

1. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, an adaptation of the Charles Dickens story that pretty much created the Christmas holiday I grew up with, this black-and-white 1951 version starring Alister Sim as Scrooge has stuck in my mind and heart since I first saw it when it first came out when I was a boy, and I continue to appreciate even more every time I've seen it since.

2. A CHRISTMAS STORY, a 1983 original from the legendary radio storyteller Jean Shepherd's quasi-autobiographical story collection (I used to listen to him spin his tales on a rebuilt radio I salvaged from the trash and fixed when I was a boy in my attic room) and the best heir to Dickens' classic take on the holiday.

3. LOVE ACTUALLY, a 2003 tale of several intertwining love stories that has grown in my esteem for its writing, acting, directing, and general filmmaking qualities, and as a deeply satisfying confection with moments of surprisingly profound depth, no matter how contrived some aspects of it might be.

4. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, the 1947 flop that I saw with my big sisters when it first came out that has since become a classic with help from the praise of movie masters like Scorcese, still hits home for me.

5. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS isn't exactly a Christmas movie, more like a four seasons of the year movie, but it has one of the most moving Christmas holiday scenes of the classic Hollywood era (it was made in 1944), when Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" as a lament, and Margaret O'Brien has her crying scene in the snow (I had a crush on O'Brien for most of my boyhood, along with older actresses like Veronica Lake and Jane Greer).

6. THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S isn't exactly a Christmas movie either but has a great Christmas scene and message, even if saturated in Hollywood sentimentality, but if you can't dig sentiment in movies you're missing one of the joys of life, and besides Ingrid Bergman co-stars with Bing Crosby and I had a big boyhood crush on her, and Bing was a prince of my people (Irish and Irish-Americans) back then (1945) as he was the dominant star of records, radio, and movies, and made it all look easy.

7. ELF took a while for me to appreciate after it debuted in 2003, but it has grown on me since, and Will Farrell has never been as appealing as he is in this film, for my taste.

8 & 9. REMEMBER THE NIGHT and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT are two 1940s films starring Barbara Stanwyck, maybe my favorite movie actress, in two entirely different roles (though the typical Hollywood treatment doesn't allow for too much distinction in whatever roles for movie stars then) but she shines in both and makes them worth watching.

10. 3 GODFATHERS is another 1940s movie (yeah, I'm a sucker for the Hollywood of my boyhood) but this time a John Ford Western starring his favorite leading man for Westerns, John Wayne, but no matter what you think of Wayne's politics this retelling of the story of the Three Wise Men is surprisingly compelling and almost modern in its focus.

BONUS: REINDEER GAMES from 2000 is another addition to my previous lists, a movie that has grown on me each time I watch it, because of the great direction by John Frankenheimer who gets the best out of the cast, especially Ben Affleck who gives maybe his best performance, and the always terrific Charlize Theron.

[PS: I'm sure I'm missing some other great ones, any suggestions?]

Saturday, December 16, 2017


My cousin Pat Lally's punk anthem DAMN THE MAN (gotta watch the whole thing)

And my nephew Jimmy Lally (with wife Karen, also a rockin musician, they now have a band in Florida) after he was inducted into The Maryland Entertainment Hall Of Fame with his old band from that state: The Great Train Robbery.

Friday, December 15, 2017


The documentary Rachel E. Diken is making about me and my poetry needs help of all kinds including funding, here's the link to her funding page which also lists the positions open to help her make it:

Thursday, December 14, 2017


poet and friend John Godfrey NYC c. 2016
(photo taken by Bob Rosenthal)
poet and friend Rachel E. Diken reading at Beyond Baroque in Venice CA  2017
me caught reading in Terence Winch's hotel room NYC c. 2014
my oldest son Miles and his partner Hannah reading a Christmas gift at my place in Jersey 2016

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


This was a favorite record of mine when I was a kid and Sinatra was having his first flush of success, due in part to his capacity to use his voice to convey the kind of vulnerability unusual in guys back then...not the slickster we think of when we think of the later Sinatra as in the first photo (the later ones are from that earlier era...

Saturday, December 9, 2017


This GODLESS is a sometimes too dark Netflix 6-episode TV series with a lot of implausible and inconsistent plot points and scenes. But it is also beautifully acted and mostly beautifully shot and directed, so I found myself watching all of it but only feeling partially satisfied.

As is too often the case today, a lot of the actors in it were Brits, as if there aren't enough American actors. But two aging "American" once-leading-man actors—Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston—carry the ball for our side and do a great job.

I never cared much for Waterston, and I acted with him on an episode of LAW & ORDER once. But in GODLESS, he actually does a great job, unexpectedly to me, playing an old Western lawman. I always love Jeff Daniels, but this is the darkest character he's ever portrayed and I was worried his genial looks and seemingly affable nature would get in the way, and it almost does at times, but he uses it and makes it work.

Michelle Dockery, of DOWNTON ABBEY fame, actually kicks ass as a widow with a native mother-in-law and half native son struggling on the prairie. But the great Tatoo Cardinal as the mother-in-law steals every scene she has anything to do with.

The revelation of the show, for me, was Meritt Wever playing a widow who transforms herself in the face of a husbandless future and almost manless town. The best thing about this series is their use of the usual old Western-film-genre tropes but with contemporary historic revisions based on what we now know were the much more common realities.

Especially that pioneer women were tough, out of necessity and circumstance, and pioneer communities included all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds from native American to African-American to gender-bending fluid Americans, and that corporate America was just as capable of evil then as it is now.


Poet, playwright, scriptwriter, and now director, Rachel E. Diken jut started a go fund me campaign to finance a documentary about me, for which I am humbly grateful. FYI here's the link.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


me reading the NY Times with our then dog Bridey and my youngest son Flynn, Father's Day in New Jersey 2005 [photo by Jamie Rose] 
my grandson Donovan and my youngest child Flynn in Great Barrington MA c. 2006
me reading a poem at a Hollywood themed reading at Bob Holman's Bowery Poetry Club (that's Claire Danes to my right) NYC c. 2008?
my oldest son Miles reading a poem? at my 70th birthday celebration in Great Barrington MA 2012
my oldest child Caitlin reading a poem? to me on my 70th in Great Barrington MA 2012
my friend Bill Lannigan reading a poem he wrote for my 70th in Great Barrington MA
poet and friend Susan Hayden caught reading in LA c.?
me reading a poem at The Cutting Room, I think, in NYC c. 2014
my friend John Restivo sent me this photo of him reading my then latest book on a train in 2015

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


As I've written of before, I ws a compulsive list maker all my life until a brain operation in 2009. I made lists in my head from the minute I woke up to the minute I fell asleep, usually using lists to fall asleep or fall back asleep.

I made lists of favorite movies and books and poems and people and so on, sometimes creating rules for them that made them extra challenging, like listing movies with five-syllable titles, or one, with each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, from A to Z.

Or I'd make little trinities, or triplets, that had some connection or submitted to some basic criterion... or I'd make list poems, or poems of lists.... And then after the brain operation I had no desire to make lists, and when I tried to force myself to, I'd get two things down and then lose interest.

But last night when I was falling asleep, I started to make a list of couplets made up of the poets and their poetry books that influenced me as a young poet and got to ten items relatively easily and thought, maybe it's coming back. So in the morning I wrote them down and added a few more for good measure.

Not earth shattering, but pretty sweet to have this comforting habit perhaps returning.

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
Emily Dickinson’s The Complete Poems

William Carlos Williams’s Paterson
Jean Toomer’s Cane

Charles Reznikoff’s By The Waters Of Manhattan
Louis Zukofsky’s A

Blaise Cendrars’ Selected Writings (New Directions 1962)
Muriel Rukeyser’s Selected Poems (the first New Directions version)

Diane diPrima’s Dinners & Nightmares
Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems

Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues
Gary Snyder’s Rip Rap

John Ashbery’s Three Poems
James Schuyler’s The Crystal Lithium

Etheridge Knight’s Poems From Prison
Joanne Kyger’s Places To Go

Monday, December 4, 2017


This is a sonnet I wrote that's part of an unpublished manuscript and I thought I'd post on this, the anniversary of Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton's assassination on December 4th 1969. 

In early December Fred Hampton, a young
Chicago Black Panther leader I knew and
dug, was brutally slaughtered along with
Panther Mark Clark, when police raided
Hampton’s crib, after firing hundreds of
bullets into it, and into him, asleep in his
bed. It was the last straw. I’d objected to
Panthers calling police pigs, thinking of
cops in my clan who were decent, but this
time it seemed insulting to the actual pigs.
I wrote a poem called DON’T LOOK NOW
with the end couplet: like this short ugly
knife you are mine/Black Panther Fred
Hampton murdered in bed by pigs 1969.  

—(C) Michael Lally 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Finally saw TANGERINE, the first movie made by the team that made one of the best films of this year: THE FLORIDA PROJECT. Sean Baker directed and co-wrote, with Chris Bergach, both films. And the extraordinary, and by now well known, fact about TANGERINE is that it was shot on iPhone 5s. And with what looked like at least some first-time actors.

But the writing, directing, editing and camera work (some of the shots are framed and lit better than multi-million dollar movies) make up for any initial doubts about the acting from the two transgender leads—Kitana Kiki Rodriquez and Mya Taylor. A superb little film. I can see why everyone was touting it when it came out in 2015.

If you haven't seen it, do.

Friday, December 1, 2017


Here's a poem I wrote to my friend and sometime lover in 1972, Greg Millard, who was one of the early casualties of AIDS...thinking today of him and Tim Dlugos and Joe Brainard and Cookie Mueller and so many more I loved who were casualties in that epidemic:

For Greg Millard

your back, cocked hat, thick clothes for cold
the way you turned around to look again for
what? It wasn’t there last night
We were there, ‘it’ wasnt, why,     why not

The world is all around us, even at night, in bed
in each others arms
distilled & injected into the odor we leave on each others
backs & thighs, between the knots & shields of all we lay
down in the dark to pick up in the morning
I like your brown eyes when you talk
you know who you are, I like your knowing this
maybe that’s not enough

Let’s talk, go to plays, see each other sometimes just to
see each other
If we lie down in each others bodies again
let it be for the music we hold
not the music we might make

(C) Michael Lally 1972