Sunday, March 31, 2019


In honor of International Transgender Day Of Visibility, here's a photo of the first Transgender woman I had a crush on, Candy Darling (R.I.P.), and a more recent and still living icon of Transgender courage, power, and poise, Janet Mock.

Friday, March 29, 2019


my two oldest kids, Caitlin and Miles, in the early 1980s, our early years in California

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A favorite photo of me and my youngest, who is 21 now so I'm guessing this was about 11 years or so ago at a reading I was doing at KGB Bar (with Terence Winch) in NYC (photo probably taken by Star Black). Oh to be in my sixties again.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


AQUAMAN made a lot of money. After watching it the only conclusion I had was that Jason Momoa is so damn charmingly appealing that his screen charisma and magnetism that kept me sticking around through one of the most badly written, directed, and edited (and scored) movies in recent memory, overwhelmed good taste, or any taste.

If anyone watching this flick has any idea of who's who in any battle scene or why a viewer should care, don't let me know cause too late. I love Mamoa and hope to see him in better vehicles for his star qualities. I feel like he should switch to whoever managed The Rock to his series of predictable but at least enjoyable movies.

And what did they pay Nicole Kidman and Willem Defoe to add their star quality to this giant bungle. And poor Amber Heard, miscast and outmatched by those three. And how unwoke is having the only "black" characters be the evil criminals?! And et-endlessly-cetera. Deeply disappointing for this viewer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


My post-brain op complete absence of my compulsive list-making seems to be abating almost ten years later as this morning I woke up and involuntarily started making a list in my head of favorite women writers, here's what I came up with (and I'm sure I'm leaving out many, including friends, so please feel free to make suggestions for additions, but this is still amazing, to me), I alphabetized it too (mostly in my head as I was doing it):

Angela Lockhart Aronoff
Barbara Barg
Anne Beatts
Eve Brandstein
Lee Ann Brown
Theresa Burns
Kate Chopin
Lucille Clifton
Wanda Coleman
Nana-Ana Danquah
Ann Darr
Tina Darragh
Yvonne de la Vega
Jane DeLynn
Emily Dickinson
Rachel E. Diken
Diane di Prima
Lynne Dreyer
Maggie Dubris
Elaine Equi
Mindy Thompson Fullilove
Joanna Fuhrman
Martha Gelhorn
Barbara Guest
Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Susan Hayden
Barbara Henning
Caitlin Lally Hotaling
Deak Hotaling
Mello-Re Houston
Zora Neale Hurston
Patricia Spears Jones
Beth Joselow
Stella Kamakaris
Martha Winston King
Joanne Kyger
Lee Lally
Annabel Lee
Audre Lorde
Phoebe MacAdams
Bernadette Mayer
Lady Murasaki
Merilene M. Murphy
Eileen Myles
Elinor Nauen
Alice Notley
Paula Novotnak
Maureen Owen
Trace Peterson
Holly Prado
Margaret Lally Queenan
Muriel Rukeyser
Jean Rhys
Adrienne Rich
Jamie Rose
Sonia Sanchez
Maria Sarrano
Ally Sheedy
Patti Smith
Gertrude Stein
Hedy Straus
Cecilia Vicuna
Diane Ward
Carrie White
Rebecca Wright

Monday, March 25, 2019


I knew Chuck before he was a music industry success. We met in 1983, just a year after I moved to L.A. when I was forty-one and he was just out of his teens and getting his life together after some rough years. We worked together on a play (me one of those on stage, him backstage, as I remember it—am I getting that right?). He was a striking looking young man with a wise ass sense of humor and a dedication to his friends.

I wasn't a close friend, but when we ran into each other over the years it was always a treat. The guy was funny and for real. Last time we connected I think it was over FaceBook, before I made my last trip to L.A. for a reading this past December. I didn't know about the struggle he'd been going through with his cancer and he was so sweetly apologetic about not being able to make it, I felt like a dunce for even bothering him about it.

My heart goes out to his family, and to all who knew him. May he rest in the kind of joy he brought to the world.

[PS: Here's a link to the Billboard obituary.]

Sunday, March 24, 2019


This is what I was needing, not the words but the voices, two of my favorites.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


As some of you know, my blog posts were mostly lists for years because of a compulsion I had since childhood to constantly make lists in my head from morning til night, especially when trying to fall asleep (as well as in conversation, my poems, etc.). But I came out of the brain operation, ten years ago this coming November, with not just the compulsion gone, but I couldn't even make a list if I wanted to or was asked to, at least not without the help of the Internet or my bookshelves etc. But the other night, probably Saint Paddy's Day, I found myself falling asleep and making a list of my favorite Irish movies, and in triplets. I'm sure if I used the Internet it would reveal other favorites, but these are what came to me:

The Commitments
Sing Street

The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Jimmy's Hall
The Secret Of Roan Inish

The Field
The Snapper
The Guard

Friday, March 22, 2019


This was always a favorite family photograph. The colors and floral patterns of that moment, and in my shirt. [Click to enlarge and see better.] That's my oldest brother, who we called Tommy until he became a Franciscan friar and took the name Campion, standing to my right. And next to him in the white tee shirt my second oldest brother Jimmy, who we called Buddy. And leaning down in front of him is William, who we called by his middle name Robert, the third oldest and a cop at the time. Sitting in front of him his wife Marie, we called Sis, and to her left Buddy's wife Catherine and their first child Cathy. Behind her is my mother Irene, known as "big Irene," and next to her her mother, my Grandma Dempsey. Down front in white and the pixie haircut, my oldest sister Joan. And behind her my sister Irene, known as "little Irene." And sitting on the edge of the couch my father James, who most called Jimmy, circa early 1950s. All are gone now except me, my sister Irene, still going strong at eighty-one, and Sis, still going strong at ninety. Time. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today is the anniversary of Brendan Behan' passing, a writer at the top of my favorites since I first read him in 1960. Behan died of his alcoholism on this day in 1964. I was in the military at the time and used the excuse of one of my favorite writer's death to go on a drunken binge that lasted a few days, but thankfully later that same year I was led to a solution for my uncontrollable drinking so didn't suffer the same fate.

Here's a brilliant tribute to Behan and his life and work by Terence Winch on the Best American Poetry blog:

Monday, March 18, 2019


Here's a photo my dear old friend Bobby Miller posted on FaceBook earlier of me in he says 1987, though I think it's closer to 1978, anyway he includes it in a series he calls: "The Handsome Talented men series"!

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Something I heard today that I wanted to pass on (and I'm sure I'm not getting the wording as well as the speaker but you'll get the idea). A woman referred to that line in the typical "Irish blessing" where it says "May the wind be always at your back" then she added, "but if it isn't may you know how to adjust your sails."

Saturday, March 16, 2019


I met W. S. Merwin in 1967 when he came to the University of Iowa to do a reading to promote his new book LICE. I remember Marvin Bell, a poet teaching at the famous Iowa Poetry Workshop, introducing Merwin as "the prince of poetry" and thinking, the man does look like a prince. Merwin was movie star handsome, but came across whenever I was around him as humble and more interested in you than himself. 

Like later that night after the 1967 reading, there was a party at some faculty member's house in "downtown" Iowa City (then only a few square blocks of bars, businesses, and some domiciles), a group of students were on the back porch passing around a makeshift pipe made from an empty toilet roll with a joint in it. I was still relatively new to Iowa City and coming from four years in the military and some street experience during those years and before that in the 1950s and early '60s, so was still too wary to toke weed in public with strangers.

I knew one person there, the poet Robert Slater, and he passed the toilet-roll-pipe to me and I just passed it on to Merwin without imbibing. We talked poetry and anti-war politics which I was very active in and I felt respect and appreciation for the guy. Five years later, in 1972, I was living in DC but visiting New York with a fellow activist in the "gay liberation front" that I was working with, and entering his apartment building in the West Village, we ran into Merwin, who lived in the same building, and as my friend introduced us, Merwin said "I remember you Michael, we met in Iowa City on that back porch where you were the only one not taking a toke from the marijuana being shared"—or words similar to those—and I thought wow, this guy has an amazing memory, and was struck again with his humility and generosity of attention.

I only saw him a few times over the years, but admired the man and the poetry. He had a good long run with many rewards and accomplishments, but will still be missed by poetry lovers everywhere.

Here's a wonderfully poignant later (2005) poem of his I love:


with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

Thursday, March 14, 2019


The women in this photograph taken during WWII were the main influences on my early years. Starting on your left, my Irish immigrant grandmother Lally who lived down the street, my Great Aunt Allie who would move in with us a year or so later, my sister Joan, (next to her our cousin Rod who lived next door and behind them our two oldest brothers Tommy and Buddy), my grandma Dempsey who would move in with us not long after this (in front of her our cousin Mickie who lived down the street, my sister Irene, our third brother Robert and our father in the fedora), my mother (with me in her arms) my Aunt Peggy who lived down the street, and Aunt Mary who lived next door.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


Did another double feature yesterday, this time two unexpectedly unique films, starting with I'M NOT HERE, a 2017 film I missed, which should have had a best actor nomination for J.K. Simmons. It's a small film, mostly confined to an old alcoholic's apartment—directed, edited, produced, and co-written by Michelle Schumacher. Most of which she does very well for my taste.

It won't be for everyone, and while I was watching it there were times when I thought it wasn't for me. But despite how uncomfortable some scenes made me, in the end it satisfied me, and not just for Simmon's performance. It may seem a little heavy handed in its use of the philosophic/quantum physics quandary of the Schrodinger's cat challenge, but ultimately, as I keep flashing on the film throughout my day today, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together and feeling more and more impressed, it worked for me.

JUANITA just came out on Netflix, and I've had access to that lately so jumped at the chance to see the always extraordinary Alfre Woodard. And JUANITA—even with an amazingly delightful cast—is all hers. (But just to mention two of the outstanding other performers, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Ashlie Atkinson, the latter played the KKK wife in BLACKKKLANSMAN and is so transformed here I didn't recognize her).

Woodard also produced JUANITA, along with her husband Roderick Spencer (full disclosure, I've known them since my L.A.days), and Spencer also adapted the screenplay from a book by Sheila Wilson. Directed by Clark Johnson, there were times when I could have jumped for joy just with the unique use of a variety of filmic devises.

JUANITA is a delight, a story unlike any you've ever seen, though with elements you have. For one, the leads in JUANITA and most of the supporting actors are either African-American or Native American, and the combination of those distinct groups filling up any movie—let alone dominating the story and scenes—would be a bonus, but in one as fun as this it's a kind of movie heaven for me.

Don't miss this one.

Friday, March 8, 2019


My mother, her mother, and her mother
in the 19teens before women could vote,
though they were all politically active.


Some more photos from the February 17th wrap and fundraiser (for Rachel E. Diken to finish the documentary on my poetry and life) party (taken by Daniel Purkis):

my two oldest children, Caitlin and Miles
Katy, Gabrielle, and Cynthia
John and Matt (two drummers)
my niece Jennifer and me
Lori and Erin
Karyn and Norman
Violet and Wendy
Eric, Rachel, me, and Annabel
my youngest Flynn
Flynn and me
David, Norm, and Richie
Don, me, and Akrim
Tatiana and Rachel
Susan and Matt
Karen and Lisa
Richard, me, and Mary
Jeanne and Sue
David and Rachel
Jeff and Norma

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


Carolee Schneemann was a revolutionary force in the art world of the 1960s onward. We became friends in the '70s but I knew of her since the early '60s when I first encountered her performance art. She was notorious for using her body, usually naked, as part of her performances, and I had some notoriety for writing about my body and sexuality graphically and honestly, which she let me know she got and dug. We'd share stories about people we'd expect to be supportive and weren't, like feminists who didn't appreciate what a feminist pioneer she was in her art and the art world. I adored her, appreciated her, admired her, and feel badly now for not keeping in touch with her more. May she rest in peace and paint and whatever else she used over the years to make her amazing creations.

Monday, March 4, 2019


I met Luke Perry in Amsterdam at the beginning of this century. I was helping the director, my friend Ate de Jong, with FOGBOUND, the movie he was shooting from an idea of his that he hired me to flesh out as co-writer. It was an English language movie but shot on a sound stage in Amsterdam where Ate lived.

As I remember it, Perry's character was a writer/journalist and somewhat of an intellectual. Once shooting started Perry began skipping and changing his lines in what seemed like an attempt to make his character more like the cool characters he was famous for playing, or to comment on them. I had written a joke about LA that opened the movie, but for LA Perry kept substituting Beverly Hills (or maybe even the BH zipcode "90210"), which made the joke not work, except as a reference to his 90210 character, which had nothing to do with the movie.

Ate flew me in after this had been going on a while. I was billed as "the writer" and a fellow "American" and other things. Perry might be more willing to take my suggestions. They put me up in the same hotel Perry was staying at overlooking a canal, and when I arrived on set I was introduced to him and we chatted and talked about the script as written. Perry was about as sweet and friendly as you can imagine. Later he knocked on my hotel room to see if I wanted to hang out, and we did.

Having worked before as a writer and/or actor on movie sets where stars had a different idea of what they wanted to do with their character, or what they didn't want their character doing, I thought I  understood what was going on. Perry seemed to like me and enjoy hanging out and talking with me, and to be willing to follow my script notes. But every day on set, he did what he wanted with the character and most of what we discussed was ignored, though he'd act like he was being compliant.

I was there for two weeks or so and fell in love with Amsterdam, met Burt Reynolds who was working on a movie on a different soundstage in the same complex, and grew to really care for Luke despite his changes to the character as Ate had created him and I helped develop. We had some deep discussions about deep topics and a lot of light ones too. He was always laid back and easy to be with. And though slighter physically than I expected, his great looks were a bonus to be around.

He was way too nice to ever be, or ever stay, angry with in any way. At least that was my experience of him. And he was way too young to die.

Sunday, March 3, 2019


Yesterday and today watched two movies from 2016 made by women filmmakers that should have received more attention.

TALLULAH, written and directed by Sian Heder is worth watching just for the three female leads, let alone the unique twist on a story that echoes classic comedy-of-errors plots but from a female perspective and with seemingly more at stake. Ellen Page and Allison Janney give their usual brilliantly crafted performances that knocked me out, but the revelation was Tammy Blanchard in what at first seemed like a thankless role but turned out to be the scene stealer. The fourth female smaller role of a detective played by Uzo Aduba also outshone the male actors in the flick, who did passable jobs but weren't half as mesmerizing as the women.

CARRIE PILBY was also directed by a woman, Susan Johnson (and written by Kara Holden from a book by Caren Lissner). The heart of the film is the lead performance by Bell Powley as the title character. I didn't know her work but she owns this movie, her Bette Davis eyes alone make it worth watching, but her craft elevates what could have been a contrivance to a lovely little romantic comedy full of wit and richly satisfying, at least for me. Again the male performers were less compelling than Powley (and another revelation, Vanessa Bayer in a supporting role), but Nathan Lane has never been more successfully subdued in a movie so I give the director credit for that too.

Saturday, March 2, 2019


Or is at least one of the main things corroding the soul of this country.