Sunday, April 18, 2021

THE PROM

 
After hearing me complain about all the depressing movies that came out last year, a friend who knows I love musicals recommended this Netflix movie musical (adapted from the stage version) THE PROM. He warned it isn't the greatest—and it isn't—but that it was a kick, and it was.

Despite it's familiar tropes and targets and platitudes (almost an unconscious parody of a parody) it's also, at least for me, a ton of fun and surprisingly moving, as the best (and better) musicals always are. I was close to sobbing at the predictably happy ending, both for that and for all the wounds of my own and loved ones and all who suffered (and suffer) through experiences of homophobia and intolerance of any kind.

And a big part of the fun is watching the cast of older stars work out. Streep kills it as a Broadway diva and James Corden keeps up with her and Nicole Kidman, who is a revelation convincingly, for me, playing a chorine who never broke out of the chorus line. Everyone in the cast is good and fun to watch, but I was particularly happy to see Mary Kay Place, one of our greatest underused actresses, even in a small role.

This flick was just the relief I was looking for.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

POETS

For poetry month: dear friends, poets Terence Winch and Doug Lang (in the Celtic Thunder tee shirt, the original Irish traditional band Terry was in and wrote much of the music for, not the later corporate-like performance of commercial  Irishness as seen on PBS) and me (in one of the other two's shades in the older pic), in the 1970s and 2018:

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

 
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH sticks close to the truth, as opposed to THE CHICAGO 7 with its many distortions of the reality it professes to portray. Both stories are so inherently dramatic they need few, if any, fictional changes, especially the melodrama Sorkin's fictional additions brought to the latter (having the consistently pacifist Dellinger act violently in court, which never happened, or ignoring the real women who were integral to the Chicago 7 story while showcasing a nonexistent relationship of Jerry Rubin with a fictional character, etc.).

If I have a caveat with JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, it's casting Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, I met Fred Hampton and saw him speak to crowds, and the two dominant aspects of his physical presence were his size (he seemed bigger than he probably actually was) offset by his deep dimples (mentioned in the poem read to him by Dominique Fishback's character). Thus he seemed powerful and childlike at the same time, a very compelling mixture missing, for me, in Kalluya's performance.

I suppose another caveat is that Kaluuya is older (Hampton was 20) and a British actor, which doesn't disqualify him (LaKeith Stanfield is a lot older than the character he plays, who was a teenager in reality, which if performed by a teen would have made the FBI agent an even more appalling manipulator), but left me a little disappointed because as good as the movie is—especially the performances by Kaluuya, Stanfied, and Fishback—I think that it could have been better.

Monday, April 12, 2021

THE FATHER

 
THE FATHER is yet another of 2020's downer flicks. I came to it, like many, to watch two of our greatest film actors square off, remembering Hopkins and Emma Thompson in REMAINS OF THE DAY. But, for me, it fell short of that high bar. Olivia Colman was terrific, as always, but her part was very limited the way it was written. And Anthony Hopkins was mostly brilliant as always, but by the end I felt he was pushing it. Not the character but the actor. Just my take. Maybe it was simple exhaustion of my capacity for any more tragic-outcome movies. Feel free to criticize me for it.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

ME AND MY SIBLINGS

 

Me, the youngest, and my living siblings during World War Two (a brother, John, between the others and me, died as an infant before I was born). The oldest was Tommy (in uniform in the later photo, after the war he became Father Campion, Franciscan friar and missionary to Japan), second oldest Buddy, given name James, (who would shortly join the Navy and end up on Okinawa in the last days of the war and later become a high school music teacher and eventually a h.s. principal), then Robert (first name William never used, who became a Teamster and then a cop and eventually a postmaster), Joan (an executive secretary who married a cop), and Irene (briefly a nun then a medical secretary who married a high school shop teacher), and me (future musician, actor, writer, and always a poet).

Friday, April 9, 2021

LAURA BOSS R.I.P.

 

Laura Boss was one of the first poets I reconnected with when I moved back to Jersey 22 years ago. She was a small press/little magazine poet, like me, and we'd known of each other for many years. Back in the day she was at times known for being the partner and muse of poets Michel Benedikt and Gregory Corso (no secret, she wrote poems detailing these connections) in the overtly sexist way those things were viewed back in the 20th Century.

But many of us knew her as a poet and editor and lovely human being. I saw her often as she and poet Maria Mazziotti Gillian ran a monthly reading series at the Montclair NJ library that I was delighted to attend and sometimes take part in. She also was the founder and editor of the poetry magazine LIPS and a champion of poets known and unknown.

May she Rest In Poetry.

[Here's a poem of hers that seems fitting:]

WHERE I GO FROM HERE

Where I go from here
      is not going to be too far
      since I just celebrated  a 
      birthday whose number says almost over

Where I go from here is maybe backward
      trying to find old friends who have disappeared,
      old third cousins, old classmates
      who on my forward moving years 
      years ago( and probably theirs too) lost touch
I wonder if they’re ok, if they’re still alive

It’s odd this having fewer years ahead
       where once the future spread 
       out like a long glowing road with 
       no near end—
Where once there were so many divergent paths
         with no near end—

 Where once there were so many divergent paths 

             I could have taken and sometimes did

Where once I stopped for years

             and focused on my kids— their future lives

             where they were going

I guess I’ll just try to call some old friends— 

             but with cell phones, no directory listings for

             them anymore—

 

I’ll hope their minds are still alert—

             that they have avoided the Alzheimer’s epidemic

             in our age group—

That they might say— I was thinking about you too

 

And maybe sooner  not later , I’ll pack up my journals

               so my grown kids and grandchildren so busy

               (and I’m glad they are )with their own lives

               might one day after I’m gone 

               pick up one of these journals 

               and discover who their mother and grandmother really was


ANNE BEATTS R.I.P.

 
Anne Beatts is known for being a writer on Saturday Night Live in its first years and for creating the TV precedent-breaking show Square Pegs. But I knew her as a poet, and a friend. She was as funny as you would expect for a comedy writer who started out at National Lampoon. And she certainly had an acerbic wit that I was sometimes the brunt of. But she was also sweet and generous and truly a lovely person who mentored many younger writers.

In the 1980s and '90s when her writing partner Eve Brandstein was my partner running a weekly poetry reading called Poetry In Motion, Anne got up the nerve to share her poetry publicly, something she admitted took more courage for her to do than anything else she'd done. If you can find a copy of the publication that came out of that series—The Hollywood Review, number one, spring 1991—you'll find a very moving poem by Anne: "When You Got Nothing, You Got Nothing To Lose" (too long to quote here). There's an interview with Anne (by Eve) in there as well.

My heart goes out to her daughter and other family, friends, and fans. Rest In Poetry, Anne. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

POETRY MONTH

Every month is poetry month to me. But April is the official one. So here'a my last book, a selection from a bunch of my earlier books that cover fifty-seven years of my poetry. If you don't have a copy, you can get it from the publisher, 7 Stories, cheap. If you already have a copy, you can buy one for someone else. And if not this book of poems, then purchase some other poet's book to celebrate poetry month. Thanks.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

HAPPY...

Happy Easter, Passover, Holi, and whatever other holy days are celebrated by you in April, and Happy Spring to all my atheist and Pagan friends. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

GARY LENHART R.I.P.

Gary Lenhart was a versatile human, but I knew him mostly as a poet and little mag editor and publisher. The photo (by Star Black) of him in later years shows his rugged handsomeness that always struck me whenever I encountered him in earlier years. As I wrote elsewhere, he was always a calm but radiant presence on the downtown scene and I admired him a lot.

I don't remember if in those days I told him the way I felt, probably not. My attraction to him probably kept me from saying anything. He was part of a slightly younger generation of, at that time, childless poets in the East Village and Lower Eastside, while I was renting an illegal loft in what was soon to be "tribeca" and raising kids as a single parent. That and, despite my bravado public persona, my natural inclination to not leave my nest(s) kept me from hanging out. But our paths crossed often in the poetry world and I was always happy to see him.

Here's a photo (I don't know who took it) from back in the day (c. 1980) of a poetry event at Books & Co. in uptown Manhattan with me looking up at the camera and Gary on my right looking at what I'm reading from, with Greg Masters behind my right shoulder and Steve Levine in glasses behind and to my left. Those were the days. He will be sorely missed by many, including me. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Here's a poem of Gary's from after he became a parent that I love:

Now and Then

          
          “…but not in Nottingham.”
          Silly sad jingle sticks in mind
          as a friend tells me
 
          about his infant daughter.
          I wish her childhood
          as magical to him
           
          as my daughter’s
          remains to me.
          “The things you do for love”,
 
          the compromises you make
          with Disney’s corporate product
          so your child won’t be alone
 
          as inevitably she will be
          dancing to a tune
          of her own invention.
 
          “My wife wants me to spend Sundays
          playing Daddy, but I
          don’t have time for that shit.
 
          I like to kick back and watch the Jets,”
          Said one buddy. Now his daughter
          grown and gone, only Jets are left
 
          forever young. The girl grows up
          and the boy stays lost
          in Neverneverland.
 
          When Wendy tries to explain
          he doesn’t understand.

          “Oh, Peter, but I’m a woman now.”