Monday, September 30, 2019


I watched the final episode of the Ken Burns documentary several days ago, but I'm still noticing the songs I Saw The Light or I'm So Lonely I Could Cry or May The Circle Be Unbroken etc. constantly repeating in my mind when I awake or I'm in the shower or doing some task without other music on.

The best things about the doc, for me, were the many great songs, the revealing details of life stories I hadn't known (Minny Pearl was actually a refined upper-class college-educated actress?), and the incredible musicianship displayed by so many.

What I missed was some expert analysis of that musicality and history (the one historian was used sparingly) and especially of the racial and political impact and connections to the music (mentioned sparsely and not in much detail).

The use of photos and footage showing Nixon and Reagan and Bush senior in connection with the music demanded a deeper analysis of why the music's association with wealthy and powerful politicians seemed confined to conservatives when the modern presidents with the deepest connections to the birthplaces of country music—Carter and Clinton—were ignored. Could it be because their party supported and promoted policies beneficial to minorities and civil rights?    

Still, it was worth watching for the music.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The first poem I read at the Boog City event in Brooklyn on Saturday Sept. 21st I wrote when I was 75 in 2017, the second one I read was filmed by Tom Devaney on his phone, I wrote that one in 1967 when I was 25. Here it is (scroll down to read the text of the poem):

Saturday, September 28, 2019


A photo (by Amy Sadao) taken after last Saturday's poetry event in Brooklynn (Sept. 21st) of three of the six participating poets: Thomas Devaney, me (can you tell I cut my own hair, even since developing occasional tremors?), and Joanna Furhman. Missing are two other participating poets Vincent Katz and Sparrow, also at the table (with others). The evening was so rewarding, including getting to know Sparrow and photographer Amy Sadao in person.

Friday, September 27, 2019


Not totally unexpected that I was wiped out after taking part in a poetry event last Saturday evening in Brooklyn and then a poetry/story telling/drama/song event Wednesday evening in Manhattan. So only now posting about the latter, which was another extraordinary display of creative originality. Totally satisfying and grateful to have been included in such a gathering. Here's two photos of some of the participants in the Wednesday gig.
poet and rapper and performer Nathan Pearson, me, and comic Eddie Brill
[photo by Dina Regine?]
comics Carol Montgomery and Eddie Brill, singer/songwriter Dina Regine, political humorist John Fugelsang, producer and poet Eve Brandstein, poet and punk icon Puma Perl (holding my book Another Way To Play), and poet/performer C Bain
[photo by Karen Fleisch]

Monday, September 23, 2019


So last Saturday evening's Boog City event at unnamable books in Brooklyn was one of those experiences that fills my heart and soul with gratitude for the creative spirit. Six people read their poetry or sang their songs, and all the work was original and delightfully so. I feel fortunate I got to hear everyone and equally fortunate I got to hang with most of them afterwards for stimulating conversation and connection. I can't imagine a life without readings and performances in intimate settings by artists whose work reaffirms the human capacity for turning language into unique constructions that elicit laughter and tears and wonder and deep satisfaction. Thanks everyone who was there in whatever capacity.

PS: a reminder that I'm taking part in another gathering of creative folks this Wednesday evening, here's the poster.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


me with two of my big brothers, Tommy (becoming Father Campion, Franciscan friar) and Buddy (known to most as Jimmy or James) around 1950. There was another brother (maybe taking the photo) and two sisters, and then a brother who passed as an infant. These two were musicians (reed men) and jokers, always had me laughing. Only one sister and me still alive.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


That's me, getting ready to take part in a march in my town during the Kavanaugh hearings.
I'm the tall one next to my friend Beth Boily on the march. People all over the country marched, but he still got confirmed. If everyone who believes in women's reproductive rights had voted for Hilary, we wouldn't have had Kavanaugh to worry about. Other things, but not as bad.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Steve Dalachinsky was a New York poet I knew but unfortunately wasn't close friends with. I didn't know him well when I lived there in the sixties at times and later in the seventies. We mainly encountered each other in some meaningful ways after I moved back East at the turn of the century. He was cool, smart, charming, as well as sarcastic in ways that I appreciated.

But after my brain surgery (almost ten years ago) I had trouble with his name sometimes and I don't know if he accepted my explanations and apologies as sincerely the result of my brain crap or if he thought I was just too self-involved. It felt like in more recent years whenever I encountered him we connected more gracefully and it made me happy. I am sorry I didn't get to know him better.

Now he has suddenly been taken from his family and friends and there's no poetic way to assuage the sadness so many are experiencing. My heart goes out to his wife, the multi-talented Yuko Otomo, and to all his many friends and fans.

Here's the last two lines from his poem "As Collage" which seems like a pretty good epitaph to me:

"...& in the end as he so aptly put it
                the THINGS themselves are left to TESTIFY.

[photo by Don Yorty]

Sunday, September 15, 2019


another trans woman murdered
I so hate the insecure baby men who perpetuate these atrocities

Thursday, September 12, 2019

One of my many transformations. In early 1966 and about to turn twenty-four, I had recently finished four years in the military and was living with my first wife, Lee, in the Brooklyn Heights apartment of the backer of a new magazine. The woman editor had offered to be my patron while I wrote "the great American novel" as she put it. This situation lasted about four months until Lee became too jealous of the editor and then my mother died (I shaved the beard that night and vowed to never grow another because she hadn't recognized me as she passed) so we moved to Jersey to take care of my father. The novel was deemed too "experimental" by my patron and was never published.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Berry Berenson was a friend to me in my early years in Hollywood. She was married to the movie star Tony Perkins at the time and until his death in 1992. They seemed really loving to each other and I admired their relationship. And I admired her.

Though she was often noted more as Perkin's wife or as model/actress Marisa Berenson's sister, Berry was a wonderful actor in her own right (see REMEMBER MY NAME). But despite her fame-for-whatever-reason, at least around me she was always the least pretentious or self-centered person I ever met anywhere.

She came to a play I was in early on in L.A, Landford Wilson's BALM IN GILEAD, and after the performance stuck around to talk to me. One of the things she said to me that night was that she had only seen one other person in her life who had the kind of glow, I think that was the word she used, that I had, and that was Marilyn Monroe!

She was wonderful on screen and off, either in front of the camera or behind it (she was a great photographer), and I only wish, as I too often do with many friends, that I had made more of an effort to see her more often. Especially after I heard the news that she had been on one of the two planes that crashed into The World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

I knew some others who went down with the towers on that tragic day, like Father Mike Judge, but Berry is the one I think of most often. As I later wrote in a poem ("March 18, 2003"), she was:

"a woman who was kind to me when
she didn't need to be[...]
How many people have died
before you got the chance to tell them what you meant to?"

R.I.P. to all those we lost on that horrific day (and those we continue to lose).

Monday, September 9, 2019



Once again my post-op brain initiated and sustained a list. This time provoked by my picking up one of the many biographies of William Saroyan I own and starting to reread it. Got me thinking about all the writers whose work I've fallen for since I was a kid, in that obsessive way only some authors inspire, where I bought every book they wrote and every book written about them. I don't remember all of them, but a lot, like:

William Saroyan
Emily Dickinson
William Carlos Williams
Walt Whitman
James Joyce
Jean Rhys
Martha Gelhorn
Jack Kerouac
Frank O'Hara
James Schuyler
John Ashbery
Kenward Elmslie
Muriel Rukeyser
Dylan Thomas
Brendan Behan
Andrea Lee
Diane DiPrima
Barbara Guest
Gertrude Stein
Ranier Maria Rilke
Samuel Beckett
Christopher Isherwood
Fydor Dostoevsky
Henry Miller
Henry Roth
Gary Snyder
Francis Ponge
Charles Reznikoff
Louis Zukofsky
Ezra Pound
William Blake
Joe Brainard
Ted Berrigan
Michael McClure
Hubert Selby Jr.
Blaise Cendrars
Joanne Kyger
Bobbie Louis Hawkins
Theodore Dreiser
Lady Murasaki
Zora Neale Hurston
Henry James

Saturday, September 7, 2019


Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, how could anyone not want to watch anything they might be in, let alone together. And as actors they don't disappoint. But the writer and director do. The inconsistency of Ronan's Mary doesn't always make dramatic or narrative sense, nor does Robbie's Elizabeth, played mostly as weaker than any other Elizabeth in film. I prefer Kate Blanchett's version in ELIZABETH. But MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is still worth watching for Ronan and Robbie, despite the missed opportunity to create something worthy of these two stars.

Friday, September 6, 2019


My dear friend the late great poet and publisher James Haining and me in Portland, Oregon, when he lived there in the 1990s before his MS became too debilitating and he returned to his native Texas. This was at an event at Artquake, as I remember it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


Watched the beautifully restored SPARTACUS on TCM the other night and found it more relevant than ever, though I wonder if younger people would see that underneath all the old Hollywood habits (like casting Brits to play the upper class Romans etc.). There's so much terrific movie making and acting in it (except at times for poor Tony Curtis cast for his looks not his accent).

At the time it was made and producer/star Kirk Douglas decided to give blacklisted Dalton Trumbo the writing credit, it seemed daring the way the story highlights the similarities between McCarthyism and other antidemocratic authoritarian tactics. I remember drawing inspiration from my memory of this 1960 movie later in the 1960s when a Dean at the U. of Iowa warned a student rally that anyone who used the microphone to speak would be expelled. I wasn't a scheduled speaker, but I went to the mic and told the crowd of more than a hundred that he couldn't expel all of us, and suggested that everyone come to the mic and state their name, as I did mine and then stepped away to make room for others. After a moment of hesitation the first student stepped up, followed by another and another until everyone had done it and the Dean's threats were rendered meaningless.

Despite the Hollywood ending in SPARTACUS, the hope at the heart of it is still poignant, maybe more than ever.