Monday, November 28, 2022

OLD FAVORITE QUOTE (AS RELEVANT AS ALWAYS)

"The heart stops briefly when someone dies,

a quick pain as you hear the news, & someone passes

from your outside life to inside. Slowly the heart adjusts

to its new weight, & slowly everything continues, sanely."


—Ted Berrigan from "Things to do in Providence" 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

HOWARD THOMPSON R.I.P.

 

This photo of Howard and me was taken in Jersey over a decade ago at the last family reunion. Howard was married to my niece Linda and was known for his quiet and calm presence that exuded strength and integrity and, the way I saw it, an amused take on the folly of a lot of human behavior, especially mine.

I may have been wrong and just self-centered about that. But I'm not wrong about his being a loving and beloved husband and father. The tributes to him coming from others in the clan who knew him better than I did, are better than anything I could write. I just wanted to send my condolences and love to family and friends of his and mark his passing.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

BERNADETTE MAYER R.I.P.

 
It's been a rough time for the poetry community lately, lots of deaths, most of them I knew, like the two I've already posted about, Doug Steindorff and Doug Lang, and one of the icons: Bernadette Mayer. I met Bernadette around 1970 and immediately fell in love with her work and her presence. We shared some things in common, both aesthetically and poetically, though she might have later disagreed. 

Her sharp sense of humor sometimes intimidated me, but her beauty, intellectually and physically, seduced me. We didn't see each other much over the years but kept up to date on each other's lives through mutual close friends, poets Annabel Lee and Simon Pettet. So I knew she was facing health issues as she had before, but this time proved more ominous. Condolences to her family, friends, and fans.

[If you don't know her work there's a selected from New Directions, or individual books that are favorites of mine: her STUDYING HUNGER, MIDWINTER DAY, and POETRY STATE FOREST]

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

DOUG LANG R.I.P.

 


I've posted these photos before of poets Terence Winch, Doug Lang, and me in DC in the late 1970s and 2018 (Doug's the only one with facial hair in the early shot). He was born and raised in Wales. I first knew of him from his 1973 end-of-the-'60s paperback novel, FREAKS, that he always seemed embarrassed by but I dug and still have. The rest of his output was poetry as original and impressive as anyone's of our rapidly diminishing generation (type in his name on my blog LALLY'S ALLEY, to find posts I've written about his work).

He had an encyclopedic knowledge of literature, music, movies, and art, and was always fun to discuss any of that with, even after losing his short term memory in recent years. He often seemed slightly amused, or bemused, by my excited enthusiasm about my own taste in the arts, but in any encounter I always felt the love we had for each other underneath it all. My condolences to all who knew and loved him, especially Terence, Sandra, Phyllis, Bernie, and Susan et al.

Friday, November 18, 2022

DOUG STEINDORFF R.I.P.

Not sure who created this enhanced portrait of Doug, but it captures some of what made him special. Like him it's fierce, over-the-top, heroic, ridiculous (Rambo on a bicycle), movie-star handsome, rugged, intense, and iconic. What 's missing is the unconditional love that poured out of him. Since we first met in 1980s LA when, as he told it, our mutual friend Hubert Selby Jr. told me to "talk him" [Doug] "down" I've been trying to keep up with him and his loving spirit. 

Whenever we expressed our love for each other we used the word "adore" and it was, and still is, the way I feel about him. I adored the way he talked and wrote (pretty much every utterance was uniquely poetic, darkly hilarious, and totally original). and I adored the way he looked and carried himself, even when, maybe especially when, he was goofing. 

And damn was he supportive. You knew he had your back even when he was flat on his from heart problems and cancer and more. Unlike anyone I've ever known in my 80 years. We're all unique in our own ways, but Doug was the most unique, to me. When I gott the call that he had passed at 61, I had trouble accepting it, something I've otherwise grown good at. But the thought of no more almost daily posts and comments from Doug on my computer anymore, left me heartbroken in new ways.

Deepest condolences to his wife, Cynthia, and their children. Life is often unfair, and often what's most unfair about it for those left behind is death.

Friday, November 11, 2022

ONCE AGAIN

 
19-year-old me, and buddy Murph, during Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base outside San Antonio, Texas, February 1962, at the start of my four years in the military  

Thursday, November 10, 2022

NOT SO LONG AGO

 
Almost six months since my 80th birthday party, so many sweet memories, including this one of me executing my only dance move left while being cheered on by dear friend Chris Coreshi.

Friday, November 4, 2022

SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE

Watched the first season of SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE, and now it's my favorite show. Set in farmland outside Manhattan, Kansas, (a place I knew well in the 1970s when old friend poet Robert Slater taught at the community college there and invited me to read my poetry to his students every year). The cast (led by Bridget Everett) is fantastic playing misfits dealing with other misfits sometimes realizing we're all misfits. So much fun and poignancy and originality, highly recommend.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

ADA CALHOUN'S ALSO A POET: FRANK O'HARA, MY FATHER, AND ME

 
It took me only a few days to read this memoir/biography/critique, its prose is so inviting. But also because I was a friend of the author's father (the recently deceased poet/art critic Peter Schjeldahl) and Frank O'Hara's life and poetry had a big impact on my life and poetry. And though I never met O'Hara, I know almost everyone else mentioned in this book, some of whom I consider dear friends, and a couple of whom were lovers. [I'm briefly mentioned in the book as well, and a poetry anthology I edited in the 1970s—None Of The Above—is listed in the bibliography.]

When me and my poetry started getting some attention in the early 1970s, several of O'Hara's friends, starting with John Ashbery, said I reminded them of "Frank," and after I moved back to NYC in 1975 O'Hara's sister Maureen asked me to write a biography of her brother, because she felt I got him and his work the way she wanted someone to. Like her brother I was an Irish-American Catholic (at least raised), military veteran, poet/critic (at the time I was a book reviewer for The Washington Post and Village Voice), lover of men (as well as women), pianist (like Frank I started as a boy playing and performing classical music), and more.

But being a single parent to a five-year-old and busy with my own writing projects, I turned her offer down, We remained friends with her often explaining her reluctance to give others the rights to her brother's writing, which is part of what this book is about. I found her protective of Frank's work and legacy but not totally unreasonably (e.g. she agreed to allow Frank's poems to be used in a stage play made up of poems by poets in downtown Manhattan in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s called The Rhythm Of Torn Stars, which included a poem of mine).

In my experience each of us has a personal perspective when it comes to reality, especially the past. Part of the pleasure of encountering others' takes on shared history is being invited in to their perspective. I agree with many of Calhoun's assessments of some people and events, but some not. Her struggle  to understand and articulate her experiences with her father including his unfinished commissioned, and then blocked, biography of O'Hara is a unique reading experience. I obviously found it hard  to put down.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

PETER SCHJELDAHL R.I.P.

 
This is what Peter looked like when poet  Ted Berrigan introduced us in the 1960s. We became instant, if wary, friends. Hearing Peter read his "Paris Sonnets" back then inspired me to transform an autobiographical piece I'd been working on for years into "The South Orange Sonnets" with the attitude of working-class New Jersey trumping the Paris I had yet to encounter.

In the early 1970s I was teaching at a college in DC and taking the train often to NYC for poetry readings and other events and would usually have lunch with Peter and then make the rounds of the galleries where he'd deliver mini-lectures on the art there, turning me on to some of my favorite artists, like Eva Hesse. In the late '70s and early '80s when I lived in Manhattan, we'd see each other at events and occasionally get together and the same after I moved to LA and he'd be visiting and, for a while, even living there.

By the time I moved back to Jersey at the turn of the century we weren't in touch as much but I was always delighted to see him at various events and always let him know how much I enjoyed his weekly art reviews in The NewYorker. Reading them was for me like a visit form him. He was a terrific poet and one of the great prose stylists of our time, always worth reading even when you don't agree with him. Rest in Poetry (and poetic prose) Peter. And condolences to his wife, Brooke, and daughter, Ada.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

GERALD NICOSIA'S MEMORY BABE: A CRITICAL BIOGRAPHY OF JACK KEROUAC (THE KEROUAC CENTENNIAL EDITION: NEW & REVISED)

 
Maybe you have to be as intensely compulsive as I am to read a 770-page biography (not counting endnotes etc.) that's an updated and expanded version of an earlier edition that was already a huge book when you read that version decades ago, but I binged read this with enthusiastic joy despite the tragic figure it depicts in more detail and critical appraisal than any other book about Kerouac.

As I say in my blurb for this book, it's "the definitive text" and it is. I may not always agree with Nicosia's critical assessment of each of Kerouac's books (though I mostly do) but I appreciate the thoroughness of his coverage of the writing of each and the life experiences of Kerouac at the time of their creation. If you're like me in digging the details of the creative processes of people whose work you find compelling, then buy this book and settle in for the ride. 

[full disclosure: Gerry and I have become friends since I read the first version of this book, and I recommend starting with the prelude on page 55 and going back to the earlier prefaces later] 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

 "Forbidden Fruit"—a poem of mine from the last century, reposted recently on the Best American Poetry Blog... [if you'd like to comment there]

Forbidden Fruit [by Michael Lally]t

Here's the link: https://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2022/10/forbidden-fruit-by-michael-lally.html

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

LILIAN REITZ R.I.P.

 
This photo (not sure who took it [Daniel Purkis]) is from my 80th birthday party in May, the last time I saw Lilian. That's her love and fiancĂ© John Restivo (my longtime dear friend) pushing her on the swing. They met at my 75th birthday party and were grateful to have found each other. Lilian was one of the most unique personalities I've known. Educated in Belgium,  she had a knowledge of European languages and cultures broader than most "Americans" and was bright and funny and sarcastic. And stylish. She was a delight to know and I'm comforted a little that at her unexpected sudden death (from Covid, stay vigilant) she was happy and in love. As her friend  Lori said, Lilian's riding waves with the dolphins now, as good an image of a possible afterlife as any. [please keep John in your thoughts and prayers]

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

ME NOW

 
[spent my life almost always being on time or ahead of time, but with Parkinson's this is me now]

Saturday, October 8, 2022

25


Some favorite photos of my son Flynn: as a toddler (while visiting friends in Martha's Vineyard, photo by Rita Stern Milch), and pre covid a few years ago clowning with me in a Jersey cafe, and staring into the camera while modeling for an ad campaign, also pre-covid, He turned 25 yesterday and my heart is full of gratitude for the great gift of his presence in my life. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

SISTERS

 

These are my sisters around the time I was born, I'm guessing, in 1942. Joan was seven and Irene five. Between them and me was our brother John, who died as an infant, so my closest sibling was Irene, who passed away recently. We also had three other brothers all older and long gone, though Joan was the first to go. Today is Irene's birthday. This is my favorite photo of her and of Joan. The way they live in my heart. [tried to post this yesterday but wouldn't let me]

Friday, September 30, 2022

SONS DAY LATE

Looks like I missed Son's Day but like daughter's, every day is son's day. Here's some photos: me and  Miles c. 1975 in NYC when I became a single parent to him; me and Flynn c. 2002 in Jersey; and both of them with me c. 2019.




Tuesday, September 27, 2022

DAUGHTER DAY A DAY LATE

Just heard that yesterday was Daughter's Day, though every day is daughter's day for me. I am eternally grateful for my first born, Caitlin, and all the joy and humor and creative insight she has always contributed to our lives (and talent: she's a terrific writer, artist, singer, and parent). Here we are early in her life (c. 1975) and more recently (2019).


 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

STAY ON BOARD

 
STAY ON BOARD: The Leo Baker Story is the most moving, engaging, enlightening, and satisfying film  I've seen in a long time, and my new favorite. It's a documentary about a champion skateboarder's struggle with identity in the face of financial, social, and survival pressures to conform to preconceived ideas of gender expression.

Highly recommend. (Full disclosure, I have friends who were interviewed for the film.) 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

THREE MOODS OF MICHAEL

 


Photos taken in Washington Square Park in the late 1970s by I think Layle Silbert. I'm wearing my inheritance from my father, his Ban-Lon shirt. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

ACTING INTERVIEW

An interview I did recently about movies I acted in, some fun stories I think, if you can hear them (my voice is unpredictable these days) . Here.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

ME AND PUMA PERL READING OUR POETRY

Here's a zoom poetry reading the queen of the lower eastside and i did not too long ago. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

SPARKS

 
This year is the 30th anniversary of Ralph Bakshi's COOL WORLD, in which I voiced the toon character Sparks, would be boyfriend of Kim Bassinger's toon character Holli Would. Kinda cool.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

NEW FAVORITE OLD QUOTE

 "I never gave away anything without wishing I had kept it; nor kept anything without wishing I had given it away." —Louise Brooks (from a NewYorker article on her by Kenneth Tynan)

Thursday, August 25, 2022

HAPPY B'DAY HOUSTON

 
Me and one of my favorite poets, music makers, and humans: Mello-Re Houston, at my poetry reading at Beyond Baroque in Venice CA in December 2018. Wishing her the happiest of birthdays today, August 25th. I totally identify with her commitment to making her life into her art.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

THE LAST MOVIE STARS

 
Brilliantly directed and edited documentary about the lives and careers of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman made by Ethan Hawke. Two of the last movie actors to be made into stars by the old studio system before its demise, Woodward was the first to achieve stardom and was later overshadowed by  Newman, her husband.

It seems Newman and his friends and associates had been audio taped for a biography of him that he grew disenchanted with so destroyed the tapes. But later transcripts of the tapes were discovered, so Hawke got actors—like Laura Linney and George Clooney for the leads (Linney gets the essence of Woodward, as Newman, Clooney just does Clooney, but it worked for me)—to play the now deceased real people.

Using footage from their movies to match the commentary or mood of the memories, the six-part doc works perfectly for my taste. I had a tooth pulled last week and used the recovery time to binge it. Highly recommend.  

Friday, August 19, 2022

JENNIFER BARTLETT R.I.P.

Jennifer Bartlett is one of my all-time favorite artists, who I'm surprised to learn was less than a  year older than me. She seemed so much more mature than me to me when I was around her in 1970s downtown Manhattan. When I encountered her soon to be most famous artwork—RHAPSODY—at the Paula Cooper Gallery in 1976 I felt high from the magnificent originality of it, and embraced in a sensual joy from its achievement.

It was controversial from the get go because of its too-muchness. Made from hundreds of small square tiles, combined to create patterns or scenes or not, in ways that you could dig up close as  separate artworks or step back and get a bigger pattern or scene and then even more by stepping back further. I went back to immerse myself in it day after day while the exhibit lasted. Dragging my kids and lovers and friends to it too.

I wrote about it, but this was the pre-computer and social media era and I can't remember where it might have been published (but it may be in my archives at NYU). To me it was and is perfect, but even the person who wrote the intro to the coffee table book about it, Roberta Smith, called it "imperfect" (which came out in 1981 and I still cherish my copy, signed by Jennifer, though it's no substitute for a full immersion in the whole piece).

I loved her writing too and remember her reading at Saint Mark's an interminable list of the brand names of various products that I slowly realized was a completely unique new way of writing an autobiography. She was one of a kind (as I guess we all are) and I'm sorry to hear of her passing, though it sounds like it was for the best. Rest In Painting, and poetry, Jennifer Bartlett. 
 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

RESERVATION DOGS

 

RESERVATION DOGS is back for a second season. YAY! for a show that should get a mess of  Emmys but aren't nominated for any I hear. "Skoden" anyway.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

FINTAN O'TOOLE''S WE DON'T KNOW OURSELVES: A PERSONAL HISORY OF MODERN IRELAND


A detailed record and analysis of the last several decades that transformed Ireland politically, spiritually, and culturally, by a journalist who experienced and/or witnessed first hand, and wrote about, the changes as they were happening, I found this account so engaging I "couldn't put it down" as they say.

I don't know how those without an interest in Ireland and the Irish will respond to O'Toole's book, but for those who are into the ongoing story of the Irish at home and abroad, this is quite a successful feat of tying a lot of historic currents and upheavals into an impressive and informative document worth reading.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

FIRE ISLAND

 
Joel Kim Booster wrote, produced, and stars in this loose adaptation of Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE update to the 21st Century and set in the summer vacation getaway, especially for gay men, FIRE ISLAND. Directed by Andre Ahnm and co-starring Bowen Yang and Margaret Cho, it's worth seeing just for the fact it's a Hollywood style rom-com that stars Asian-Americans who happen to be gay (a first as far as I know), let alone that it's at times uncontrollable laughter inducing.

It's mostly light but has enough serious issues depth to anchor it to present realities (pre-covid though) and give us a reason to switch allegiances as in the Austen version (Conrad Ricamore as the Mister Darcey reincarnation is excellent, as is the entire cast). Perfect summer fun movie, though with much more sex than the usual Hollywood hetero norm fare (fair warning). Hope it's successful enough to pave the way for more trailblazing movies like this one. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

RON ZIMMERMAN R.I.P.

 

This is a photo of Rick Overton (with left hand on my shoulder), me, and Ron Zimmerman (in hat, with my left hand on his shoulder) at Beyond Baroque in Venice Beach, California, in December 2018 when I was there on a book tour for my last poetry collection, Another Way To Play, which Ron is holding.

Ron and I originally met in LA in the 1980s when he was a comedy writer for TV and began showing up at the weekly poetry readings I ran with Eve Brandstein. His mischievous and sarcastic humor sometimes made me feel like he didn't like me, but eventually I realized it was just his way of dealing with his own fears and we became good friends.

I was touched to see him at my reading in 2018 and even more so because he seemed so subdued and genuinely warm and loving to me. He may have already been sick and humbled by that, but whatever the cause I was moved and gave him a long hug. When I heard he was ill and then that he'd passed, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I'm coming out from under the weight of that and getting to the peace I find in acceptance of these realities, but damn man it's bad enough when older folks die, but when people even a little younger pass it's a jolt to the system, all the systems. R.I.P. Ron.

Monday, July 25, 2022

KATHII LALLY GROSS R.I.P.

 
That's me squished between my two grandmothers after making my First Holy Communion, as they called it in 1949. Grandma Dempsey, on my left, lived with my siblings and parents, and her cousin, my great Aunt Allie, and me in the house this was the living  room of, and to my right my Irish immigrant Grandmother Lally and my cousin Kathi, who lived down the street with Kathi's sister and their parents and Grandpa Lally. The other two cousins, Marylynn and David, lived next door with their two siblings and parents.

We spent a lot of time in each other's homes growing up, so we cousins were very close. I always envied Kathi because she got to live with Grandma Lally, who we all adored, and which made her somehow closer to "the old country" I felt. Back then Kathi reminded me of the child movie star Margaret O'Brien, with a similar smile and mischievous twinkle in her eyes. Kathi was a few years younger so I did my best to watch out for her, something she thanked me for in later years. 

After she married her late husband Ed Gross (a kind and good person) and switched parties we had our political differences, though she always found a way to make them seem humorous, unlike me. But no matter what the years wrought, when we saw each other or spoke on the phone we were instantly kids back on our street, known then as Lally's Alley, surrounded by family and love. Peace out cuz.

Friday, July 22, 2022

HAPPY DAYS

 
My best friend poet/songwriter Terence Winch posted this photo of me and his son, the now great fiddler (and more), Mike Winch, taken in May of 1996. I love it. Especially Mike's engagement with the camera/photographer.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

Any movie with Michelle Yeoh is worth watching. Any movie with Jamie Lee Curtis is worth watching . So since EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE  has both of them, it's double worth watching. But even without them  (though I can't imagine anyone else in the lead but Yeoh) the movie is so inventive and fun to watch, I'd still recommend it. A blend of serious and silly, it had me responding equally with laughter and amens. If you haven't seen it yet, do.

 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

THROWBACK TO YESTERDAY

Dear friend and one of my favorite poets, Stella Kamakaris, visited yesterday with her husband Joe Keating (who took this photo of Stella and me).

Monday, July 4, 2022

STILL ONE OF MY ALLTIME FAVORITE QUOTES

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."

—Walt Whitman (from the preface to the 1855 edition of LEAVES OF GRASS)

Friday, July 1, 2022

KENWARD ELMSLIE R. I. P.

 
This photo (taken by ?) best captures the way I remember Kenward in the 1970s when we spent a lot  of time at his place or mine for dinners and parties and just hanging out. He was, to me, an exceptionally gentle and generous person. At the time he was the wealthiest human I'd ever been friends with, and I may have been as exotic to him. 

He was a poet/playwright/performer/fiction writer/opera and song lyricist, whose most outrageous work a lot of people didn't get, but I love everything I ever read of his or saw performed. His writing was sometimes compared to the Dadaists of the early 20th Century, and he was also seen as part of the first generation of "New York School" poets who were all his friends.

His most accessible writing (though it all seems accessible to me, if you can surrender to its own logic) were lyrics for an opera about Lizzie Borden and the "only song" he wrote lyrics to that "ever made it to a juke box" as he told me, called "Love-wise"–but the writing that impacted me the most was his short fiction collection:The Orchid Stories.

Last time I saw him, I thanked him for all his kindnesses to me and as always he seemed embarrassed by my gratitude, but also touched by it. I'm still grateful.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

1000 YEARS OF JOYS AND SORROWS: A Memoir by Ai Weiwei

 
The artist and political activist Ai Weiwei's memoir covers the history of more than a century of resistance to repressive authoritarian political forces in China through the stories of his father's and his lives. His father was a revolutionary and renowned poet who was acclaimed and then attacked by the Chinese Communist Party, whereas his son was mostly just attacked.

I'm a great admirer of Ai Weiwei's courage as both an artist and activist so found this book compelling as well as revelatory. The English of translator Allan S. Barr is accessible and clear, except at times for Ai Weiwei's father's poetry, more clumsily rendered. If you're an art, or history, or Chinese culture, or Ai Weiwei fan or student, as I am, you should find this book as engaging as I did.

In the context of current events, it is also a tribute to resistance against restrictions on human rights.

Friday, June 24, 2022

QUOTE FOR TODAY

To paraphrase early 20th century activist Joe Hill writing to supporters after he was sentenced to be executed by firing squad:

DON'T MOURN. ORGANIZE!

MORE 80TH BIRTHDAY PHOTOS (ALMOST A MONTH AGO)

 
standing left to right: my grandchild Donovan, Abi, Will, Alec, John, Lilian, Mark, my cousin MaryLynn, and me sitting

left to right: Nick, Beth, Karen, my son-in-law Ed, daughter Caitlin, niece Lisa, Gabrielle, and me
standing left to right: Rain, Susan, brother-in-law Evan, Frosty, Barbara (?), John, Dick, Mary, Cindi; and sitting: me, sister-in-law Luloo, Brendan, and Heather