Thursday, March 23, 2017

JOANNE KYGER R.I.P.

One of my favorite poets and people, Joanne Kyger passed after a full life of over eighty-two years. If you don't know her work, you should. I see she's being classified as "A Beat Poet" in some obits (because she was married to poet Gary Snyder back in the day—who is often associated with "The Beats"—and of course they were friends with those who basically were considered "The Beats"), but her work was too unique to have it classified with any group.

I didn't spend much time in her presence over the years, but occasionally since I met her around 1970, around the time the photo above was taken (the fuller version). But we corresponded and I think read together at least once, and she was one of the first poets I asked for work for the anthology I put together in the 1970s called NONE OF THE ABOVE.

Here's a great quote from what I selected for that:

"When there is nothing to seek, then
            there is ease."

And here is a poem from 2003 that's being quoted around the Internet since the word got out that she'd passed, this was included in her giant collection ABOUT NOW:

Night Palace

"The best thing about the past

                                           is that it's over"

                              when you die.

            you wake up

from the dream


                                             that's your life.


Then you grow up

                         and get to be post human

                    in a past     that keeps happening

                ahead of you

ONCE UPON A LAST MONDAY


A lot of photos taken last Monday at The Gotham Comedy Club Poetry In Motion reading/performance, but these are two of my favorites: me reading from my 1982 book ATTITUDE, and hanging at our table with poet and dear friend Rachel Diken, who also read, my oldest son Miles, and his girlfriend Hannah...

Monday, March 20, 2017

ANOTHER GREAT NIGHT

For those who came out for this tonight, thank you, and for those who missed it hope to see you next time. The event was an explosion of creative energy: pointed, powerful, poignant, and often funny as hell. But most of all inspiring and comforting. Because everyone on the bill brought the kind of compassionate heart coupled with no-bullshit realism that make us a community of not bleeding-heart liberals but kick-ass love-generators. Let's keep making it happen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

CHUCK BERRY R.I.P.

It's always been my intention, since I started this blog, to bring my personal experiences and connections to some topics of the day that catch my attention. I am so happy that many news and Internet outlets are referring to Chuck Berry in their obituaries as "The Father of Rock'n'Roll" because he was. His influence on me was enormous as his music hit the radio just as I was hitting puberty.

I posted the photo of the cover of the first anthology I had poetry in, CAMPFIRES OF THE RESISTANCE (Bobbs-Merrill 1971), because in my bio for it the first thing I mention is the influence of Chuck Berry. I attended the U. of Iowa Writers Workshop on The G.I. Bill and received an MFA in Poetry in 1968 and the title of the collection I submitted for my thesis was "Sittin' Down At A Rhythm Review." Which I thought summarized the workshop experience for me. Most of the professors had no idea what the title referenced.

But here's a video of Berry singing and playing the song that title came from—"Roll Over Beethoven"—in 1958, several years after the song came out, and as usual he is working with the house band, or local musicians (in an obviously foreign venue as the way he does his intro implies) and expects them to keep up with him as he sings his own lyrics and melody in a way unique to this performance (very much like a jazz musician, and like many rock'n'rollers who would follow in his footsteps, in one way or another, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan among many), listen to the way he changes the ending chords to minor ones distinct from the record...

His performances alone were templates for how to showcase rock'n'roll guitar virtuosity, and if that's all he had done would have given him the right to be called "The Father of Rock'n'Roll" but listen to the lyrics and the chords and the melody and acknowledge he was the great innovator who combined genres of earlier music—jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, pop and even country—into a guitar driven explosion of exuberance that changed not only music but culture and society...forever.

Long live rock'n'roll!  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

MIDDAY MINI-RANT

In 1981 I received my second National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant for Poetry. It was the start of the Reagan Era and the right-wingers were encouraged to start dismantling government programs that didn't directly benefit the wealthy and corporations. So two rightwing Republican Congressmen got up on the floor of Congress and called for the elimination of the NEA, and used my grant as their main reason for what was wrong with the federal government supporting the arts, saying it rewarded "pornography" because of my poem "My Life"—a ten page list of aspects of my life so far which included some graphic and at that time "deviant" sexual terms and what some consider "foul" language.

The problem with their subsequent campaign to use my poem as the impetus for outrage was that the parts they objected to were censored in newspapers and magazines and bleeped out on radio and TV, so no one could ever actually get what they were objecting to. Which is why the following year they used the visual arts to condemn the NEA, in particular the photo of a crucifix in a bucket of alleged urine. It was easier for people to use their imagination when they saw the image and become outraged, if they objected to the idea.

I had moved to L.A by that time and was called by the NEA to ask if I'd be willing to testify before a Congressional committee, but when they heard I was now on the other side of the country, they decided to save the expense of flying me back and putting me up and went with some East Coast visual artists and performing artists instead. But I remain proud and a little guilty at the fact that it was a poem of mine that was first trotted out to discredit the NEA. And by the way, my first grant from the NEA was in 1974 and was based on an earlier series of poems called "The South Orange Sonnets" that a Democratic Congressman praised on the floor of Congress and got mentioned in the Congressional Record where he called me "a major American poet."

Different strokes, as they used to say.

Friday, March 17, 2017

That's a photograph I took of my late cousin Paddy, who was the last Lally to live in the place behind him, an expanded version of the home my paternal grandfather, also Michael Lally, grew up in, in the late 1800s.
The cover of my first CD, WHAT YOU FIND THERE, designed by Jennifer Baxendale (recording of me reading my poetry in a studio outside L.A.) with my grandfather's birthplace, and a silhouette of me from a photo (taken by Rain Worthington) of me walking down Church Street in NYC in what would become known as Tribeca but back before anyone lived there legally, with my long hair and 1980s overcoat.
And the back of the CD. "Where Do We Belong"—an obviously very long poem—is about my Irish roots and first visit to the homeland. The poem is also in my book CANT BE WRONG.