Saturday, November 27, 2021
Friday, November 26, 2021
Thursday, November 25, 2021
My late cousin Paddy Lally in front of the cottage where my paternal grandfather, also Michael Lally, grew up outside Athenry in County Galway, Ireland. Paddy was the last one to live there before it began to crumble after he moved out and there was no longer a constant peat fire going to keep the moisture that rots out. I come from people indigenous to a land that was invaded and taken over by colonizers which led the the genocide too often called "the famine" (the English and Irish Protestant landlords didn't starve). Any descendant of Irish Catholic immigrants who doesn't mourn and honor and work to redress the genocide and colonization of indigenous people in the "Americas" betrays their ancestors and heritage.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
In the mid-1960s I sent Robert Bly a poem of mine for his magazine The Sixties (called The Fifties when he started it back then) and got a smartass rejection letter back that I responded to with a smartass poem. After four years as a low rank court-martialed serviceman in the military I had gotten fed up with poetry editors treating me and my work like we didn't know what we were doing, so I used the G.I. Bill and applied to the U of Iowa Writers Workshop to get credentials I could flash to show I knew all their tricks and supposed knowledge about poem creating but I was doing it my way with full understanding of the literary traditions and standards I was choosing to either reject for/or transpose into my own original ones. I was unique among my fellow grad students who mostly graduated from prestigious colleges in that I hadn't graduated from any yet (Iowa let me work on a BA and MFA at the same time).
Bly had attended the U of Iowa Writers Workshop earlier, but downplayed it because even though Iowa was the first, "Workshop" MFAs were seen as a sign of poetic conformity, a kind of cookie-cutter poetry/writing factory product. But I worked hard for mine, and not just writing papers and passing tests I had to get A's on to be allowed to continue to work on two degrees at once while I held several part-time jobs and was a husband and father and newspaper political columnist and reviewer and ran for sheriff on The Peace and Freedom ticket and more, so I owned my degrees. Although my scheme didn't work as, even after all that editors and publishers and critics and reviewers and some fellow poets continued to treat my poetry as inferior to what they judged as worthwhile.
But over the years I continued to run into Robert Bly or his poetry, I liked some, until the last time I saw him in Irvine California the year the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize. His people had organized a weeklong conference called Harmonium Mundi, with panels during the day that included monks and priests and ministers and psychologists etc. discussing various topics searching for agreement, and at night in a huge arena cultural events that juxtaposed e.g. performances by a Russian traditional peasant chorus followed by a Japanese Noh orchestra and a William Blake poem read by Allen Ginsberg (we had lunch with my only son then the day Allen was there) or a Rumi poem read by Robert Bly.
I agreed to MC the nightly events only if they let me organize a night of poetry, which they did, but that's another story. Anyway, the night Bly was reading Rumi, we ran into each other backstage, me assuming he didn't know who I was, but as I walked past him to go on stage he whispered, "Thank you Michael," which stopped me. I said, "What for?" and he said "For all you do for poetry." I wasn't sure what he was referring to but it made me feel good.
Bly was a controversial figure in the poetry world, and some poets dismiss his work as too egocentric or unwoke or slight or a lot of other negative judgments, but I remember a couple of great anti-Vietnam war poems he published before almost any other poet did and that "Thank you Michael" and so say "Rest In Poetry" Robert Bly, with condolences to your family, friends, and fans.
(C) 2021 Michael Lally
Monday, November 22, 2021
On a perfectly clear Fall day, heading back to
Fort Monmouth, I watched as other cars on
The Garden State Parkway veered onto the
shoulder and stopped, the drivers not getting
out, just sitting there. At the toll booth the man
said The president's been shot. As I drove on,
more cars pulled off the road. I could see their
drivers weeping. Back in the barracks we stayed
in the rec room watching the black and white
TV, tension in the room like static. When they
named Lee Harvey Oswald, I watched the
black guys hold their breath, hoping that meant
redneck, not spade, and every muscle in their
faces relax when he turned out to be white.
(C) 2018 Michael Lally [from Another Way To Play]
Sunday, November 21, 2021
Photographer/poet/performer/stylist and dear longtime friend Bobby Miller styled and shot these two portraits of my oldest offspring, Caitlin (whom he's known since she was three), in 1980 (when she was twelve) and last week, forty-one years later. Pretty cool.
Thursday, November 18, 2021
A favorite photo of my best friend, Terence Winch, and me taken several years ago in Manhattan. He remembers us first meeting fifty years ago this month in DC (I thought we met earlier), so it's likely the 50th anniversary of our friendship for which I am eternally grateful. It was a while before we discovered that his mother came from only a few miles away from where my paternal grandfather came from in County Galway in Ireland. And decades before it was discovered that the maiden name of his mother's best friend in the Bronx, where Terence grew up, also originally from the same Irish village as Terence's mother, was Lally.
Monday, November 15, 2021
Thursday, November 11, 2021
Me and my buddy Murph in February 1962 during basic training at Lackland Air Force Base outside San Antonio Texas. I was 19 and had signed up for four years but they added two weeks, the extra time making up for the two weeks in July of that year when I went AWOL to San Francisco. Never got more than two stripes cause of my shenanigans. But was able to go to college on the G.I. Bill when I got out in '66.
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Monday, November 8, 2021
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Monday, November 1, 2021
I'm celebrating Celtic New Year's Day (and best friend poet/Irish musician/songwriter Terence Winch's birthday (which should be a national holiday)) in my new home in upstate New York in gratitude to my older son Miles and his partner Hannah's hard work making it happen up here (shout out to my daughter Caitlin for her help since) and my youngest son Flynn and his mother, Jaina, packing my stuff in Jersey and my dear friend Spencer helping them and renting the truck (and friends Matt and his son Ben helping them load it) and driving my tons of books and bookcases and too much art for the little old (1840) farm house that is now my and Miles and Hannah's home up here.
Hannah wrote the great poem on our new home's fridge (see photo: the musician is Miles, the farmer Hannah). Spenser took the selfie with most of those who helped unload the truck.