Thursday, October 27, 2022


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


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


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:

Wednesday, October 12, 2022


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


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

Saturday, October 8, 2022


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



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]