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Another Way to Play

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Another Way to Play


  way to play

  POEMS 1960-2017

  michael lally

  introduction by eileen myles

  seven stories press

  new york • oakland • london

  Copyright © 2018 by Michael Lally

  Introduction © 2017 by Eileen Myles

  A Seven Stories Press First Edition

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  Seven Stories Press

  140 Watts Street

  New York, NY 10013

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Lally, Michael, 1942- author. | Myles, Eileen, writer of introduction.

  Title: Another way to play : poems 1960-2017 / Michael Lally ; introduction

  by Eileen Myles.

  Description: A Seven Stories Press first edition. | New York : Seven Stories

  Press, [2018]

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017056451 | ISBN 9781609808303 (paperback)

  Subjects: | BISAC: POETRY / American / General.

  Classification: LCC PS3562.A414 A6 2018 | DDC 811/.54--dc23

  LC record available at

  Thanks to all the editors and publishers of the books, anthologies, and magazines these poems appeared in and to those who helped or inspired me with some of these poems, especially: Hey Lady and Morgan Press, Some Of Us Press, The Stone Wall Press, Blue Wind Press, Wyrd Press, Salt Lick Press, Vehicle Editions, Jordan Davies, Hanging Loose Press, Little Caesar, Coffee House Press, Quiet Lion Press, Black Sparrow Press, Libellum and Charta Presses, Word Palace Press; and Morgan Gibson, Peter Schjeldahl, Robert Slater, Lee Lally, Ed Cox, Tina Darragh, Ed Zahniser, Kim Merker, George and Lucy Mattingly, Janey Tannenbaum, Jim Haining, Annabel Lee, Bob Hershon, Ron Schreiber, Dick Lourie, Emmet Jarrett, Mark Pawlak, Susan Campbell, Alex Katz, Dennis Cooper, Lynn Goldsmith, Edie Baskin, Allan Kornblum, Brian Christopher, John Martin, Vincent Katz, Paul Portuges, Ray DiPalma, Aram Saroyan, Eve Brandstein, Eileen Myles, Ted Berrigan, Karen Allen, Jamie Rose, Hubert Selby Jr., Gus Van Sant, Paul Abruzzo, Dan Simon, Rachel E. Dicken, and to all I am forgetting, and last but not least my lifelong “irreplaceable” friend and consultant on all things poetic, Terence Winch, and my children Caitlin, Miles, and Flynn.


  Actual Lally by Eileen Myles



  “So, the novels . . .”

  Hitchhiking To Atlantic City

  Letter To John Coltrane

  Hard Rain

  In The Distance


  from The South Orange Sonnets


  American Renaissance


  Two Poems While Something Crumbled


  Aint No

  Watching You Walk Away



  Weatherman Blues


  “Now I’m Only Thirty-Two”

  You Remember Belmar NJ 1956


  Kent State May 4, 1970

  Newark Poem

  Dreaming Of The Potato

  “We Were Always Afraid Of”

  ***Marilyn Monroe***

  Poem To 1956

  Poetry 1969

  Weatherman Goes Out 1969

  Conversation With Myself

  I Wish I Could Tell You About It


  My Life



  More Than

  Sonnet For My 33rd


  About The Author



  from Running Away

  Empty Closets




  In Harlem In 1961

  Their Imagination Safe


  Queen Jane

  Today What If Everything Reversed


  You Walk In


  (“I Stand”)

  In America

  You Are Here

  A Little Liszt For Olga


  Dark Night


  No Other Love Have I

  Life Is A Bitch

  In The Recent Future

  On Turning 35

  She’s Funny That Way




  April Fool’s Day 1975

  “To Be Alone . . .”

  So This Is Middle Age?


  The Other Night

  Honky Hill (Hyattsville Maryland)

  Out In The Hall

  Eric Dolphy

  “In 1962 I Was Living . . .”




  Falling In Love

  Fathers Day

  What We’re Missing


  Notice To Creditors

  Snow 2

  The Cold

  Mother’s Day 1978

  Loving Women

  Coming Up From The Seventies

  “As Time Goes By”


  My Image

  Something Quaint

  The Women Are Stronger Than The Men

  from DC

  Another Way To Play

  from ***On The Scene***

  Don’t Fuck With Anti-Tradition

  Tough Times

  New York New York

  The Secret

  In The Evening


  Alone Again, Naturally

  Piece Of Shit

  from Hollywood Magic

  “Soft Portraits”

  from It’s Not Just Us

  Dues, Blues, & Attitudes

  The Night John Lennon Died

  Fuck Me In The Heart Acceptance!


  Going Home Again

  Sports Heroes, Cops And Lace

  Holiday Hell

  20 Years Ago Today

  Disco Poetry

  The Sound of Police Cars

  Having It All

  Something Back

  Young Love

  Isn’t It Romantic?

  They Must Be Gods And Goddesses

  Obsession Possession And Doing Time

  That Feeling When It First Goes In

  I Overwhelmed Her With My Need

  I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Start

  from Fools For Love

  Lost Angels 2

  Last Night

  Attitude And Beatitude

  Turning 50

  Where Do We Belong


  from Of


  It’s Not Nostalgia—It’s Always There



  Lost Angels

  Six Years In Another Town

  On November Second Nineteen Ninety Three

  My Life 2



  Heaven & Hell

  Who Are We Now

  Is As

  from Hardwork

  from The Rain Trilogy

  Brother Can You Spare A Rhyme?


  Walk On The Wild Side

  The Healing Poem

  Forbidden Fruit

d Boys And Women Who Want It All

  Attitude, Gratitude, and Beatitude

  More Than Enough

  It Takes One To Know One

  MARCH 18, 2003

  from Match 18, 2003


  Before You Were Born


  The God Poems

  Swing Theory 1

  The Geese Don’t Fly South

  Give Me Five Minutes More

  Dear Birds

  from The 2008 Sonnets

  Tea Party Summer

  Swing Theory 2

  Poem On The Theme: Arthritis

  Swing Theory 3

  String Theory

  from So And

  The Jimmy Schuyler Sonnets

  November Sonnet

  The San Francisco Sonnets (1962)

  Swing Theory 4

  How The Dark Gets Out

  To The Light

  Love Never Dies

  Fighting Words

  Swing Theory 5


  from The Village Sonnets


  from New York Notes (2004)

  To My Son Flynn

  Most Memorable Movie Mothers

  Two Post-Brain-Operation Observations

  Blizzard of ’16

  Take It Easy

  Too Many Creeps

  First Two Reactions

  The Times They’re Always Changin’

  Love is the Ultimate Resistance

  Actual Lally

  This is an awesome book and you should read every word of it. You won’t do it in a day or in many days but during the passage of reading Another Way To Play you will learn something about time. Another Way To Play seems to offer advice – and it’s advice from self to self, which might be the only way to enact advice truly. Plus who is that “another”? Somebody else?

  As I’m climbing over the rocks, the poems of Michael Lally, this incomplete utopia, a rugged landscape of a book, it occurs to me that what Michael takes on is nothing less than the feat of being alive and the exploding and strewn nature of that exactly on its own terms (living in a body) while this writer keeps trotting out his own arrogance like a family joke and deep humility is in there too, humility is the gas station of so much of what Michael Lally does and is, poet and man. Lally is mostly a straight guy but you may viscerally experience the embrace of another man in “Watching You Walk Away” which was dedicated to Gregory Millard, one man who died collectively—of AIDS, so there’s an imputation here—of being a survivor of love, even being a man of a certain age or moment who knows that being a loving man AND loving men now has both its glory and its price:

  The world is all around us, even at night, in bed

  in each others arms

  distilled & injected into the odor we leave on each others

  backs & thighs, between the knots & shields of all we lay

  down in the dark to pick up in the morning

  I like your brown eyes when you talk

  This collected poems or collected poem is constructed of similar yet all different mostly brave moments. It’s a compendium of what one is possibly brave enough to do—to labor, to fail, to lounge, to love. Lally’s not fessing up, but he’s proud. This is undoubtedly the book of a proud man. Proud to a fault, and he’s the first to tell you that as well. I mentioned family before. Yet what one more likely feels throughout the four hundred-odd pages of Another Way to Play is that you’re kind of in a relationship with this guy. Whether you’re male or female. Which is kind of octopussy, but stylistically Lally is a dancer, habitually reeling from form to form. It’s a broken book in the best sense. There’s no whole here, the self is never resolved, but what’s delivered, weltered in poem form, is a novelistic series of impressions. It’s a real thing and a changing thing. An aesthetic and a biographical one. Years ago I read in James Schuyler’s “Morning of the Poem” that Schuyler approved of Michael Lally because he looked you straight in the eye. Here we’ve got an extended Lally poem (“The Jimmy Schuyler Sonnets”), which tells us much the same thing—that “Jimmy knew what mattered.” The men’s mutual admiration, their like for one another has a special feeling, a leveling affect. They invite us into their intimacy. Their public “like.” Which makes me want to step out too and acknowledge that I’m discovering that I’m extremely influenced by Michael Lally and I hadn’t thought so much about that until I was dwelling here in this book. Because his affect occurs through so many different gestures. In the most existential way, his poem is an act.

  He starts one like this:


  First of all I’m naked

  while I’m typing this,

  I mean I know I tried it. Was it after him. Perhaps. I think I tried fucking myself while writing. Inserting a dildo and then writing an art review. I’ve read in Chris Kraus’s biography of her that Kathy Acker sometimes wrote naked. And I kind of remember Peter Schjeldahl telling me a long time ago that he wrote naked too. And Peter wrote long naked poems. So naked that he stopped writing poetry entirely. The trick is to manage to stay in. And this, Lally’s, was a way. Michael began his poem like that. Naked. Yet it wasn’t about it at all. It was another way to begin again. Which Lally is always doing. Here nakedness kind of invented the studio of the poem. Just matter of fact. Which is the constant position in the work. He’s a working class man so it’s a chore. To be real. And to make that new.

  Open my brain, poems fly out.

  And it pretty much looked that way when I first met, or really laid eyes on Michael Lally in about 1975.

  Two poets I knew, Harry and Larry, invited me to go up with them to the Gotham Book Mart to hear some famous poet from DC. Or maybe the poet had just moved to New York. Harry and Larry explained that Michael was more than a bit of a showman, a sham perhaps but winning finally, definitely worth going to see. I was a new kid in town and female so these guys, all men, were responsible for my education. Harry and Larry admired Michael Lally they blushingly admitted. They had a boy crush on him. They also loved Janey Tannenbaum of the Gotham book mart and she had made a little chapbook of Michael’s My Life through her own Wyrd Press. That publication was the reason for the event. The room was packed. This good looking dark haired Irish guy—someone who had run for office in that counter culture way (and lost!) who slept with men and women and the breadth of Michael’s living absolutely impressed the two guys who invited me. It’s true, they gasped, exasperated, delighted and there he was seated at a table in a clean blue (I think) shirt presenting his poem in a low key almost cowboy way. Like you all know this. I am a ritual. He calmly looked up. Lally looked like someone I might have grown up with, very Irish, cute, but carrying himself like a man, not a pretty boy yet someone firmly planted in his own affect. The Gotham being at its zenith at that time only hosted stars. Ntozake Shange gave a solo reading as well around then and saintly Patti Smith had read to this glamorous room a few years earlier. Mid seventies was a moment of poetry stars, these people were not soo apart from the wider culture yet they were ours, each an example, pamphleteers in a way, speaking for the vitality of small culture then. They were not larger culture’s absence but its depth. And each of these cults opened onto other cults of sex, politics, and race, music and painting. It was acidy. It was a wide counter culture then, and poetry was the mouthpiece of it and Michael was that day’s star. He refers to “My Life” in other poems in this book as his famous poem and it is and was plaintively that. The poem revels in its own facets. Contradictions. Though the poet’s not too hard on himself. The poem’s sort of funkily buffed like Just Kids. I like “My Life” as an example of how a poet can occupy space and stand as pure legend yet it’s by far not his most interesting work. You can see the echoes building up to it within this book and poems later on audition a similar stance in short and long versions for the rest of his writing life. What I love about Michael’s writing is that he really isn’t trying to do it again. His most famous poem
is his emptiest poem. He knows that. That’s its joke. His last poems in this volume are his best poems and so are his earliest ones. He’s so big as a flawed human, as the apologist of Michael Lally, as the St. Augustine of Michael Lally, so endlessly expansive in his context yet still not ever breaking into prose. He’s holding the line, so that finally if you just wanna talk about Lally as a poet, he’s a sonneteer. A guy with a lute. A maker of that precise little form that spawns so many multiples of itself, “The South Orange Sonnets,” “The Village Sonnets” reveal the classiness of a poet. He’s the novelist who just wouldn’t bother he is so busy living and dreaming. He is real because he’s courting the myth. “My Life” is such an arrival, here’s the boat, that he exhausted the approach in a one off, sort of ended his life early on so he could keep going cause so what. Why be a star really? Isn’t that missing the point. This is a wise book. And a book of life has to be a book of wisdom. It’s really so much more moving to read a love poem to a woman or man – or talking to his children. Or going to Ireland to find a few Lallys and not be corny about it and it’s not. Or to read the much older Michael’s sonnets about the village when he was a kid. This is a poet who is probably more shaped by his love for black girls than being Irish. Or is it both. Part of the wonder of Lally’s work is that he is the performance of how race and class dovetail. One punk kid who makes poetry all his life about a black girl who he loved all his life and she him is the living coalition. What I mostly finally love about Lally is that like Gertrude Stein he insists we all stand with him while he’s living and writing. Which is easy to play. Cause it’s your book too.

  No, all I want to do

  is sound like what I am always becoming,

  —Eileen Myles

  NYC, June 2017


  whatever it is I want to do it

  like I want to sit down for awhile

  by myself this week, get a personal

  letter from William Saroyan as though

  he’d been reading my books since childhood,

  stand up at the reunion of everyone

  who ever did me a favor & those I lied to

  & abused or made an ass of myself trying to

  impress and say, very softly, in a voice

  like the works of an Indian we all expected

  to be a poet but instead was warrior

  “everything is a fiction”

  sounding more like a Spanish philosopher

  afraid to kick Franco in the ass and

  spit on the church?

  No, all I want to do

  is sound like what I am always becoming

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