Born Orange, New Jersey, 1942, youngest of seven in an Irish-American family of cops, priests, and politicians. Started out playing piano and reading poetry in coffeehouses and bars in the late ’50s and early ’60s. In 1962 joined the Air Force and spent more than four years as an enlisted man. Later used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and ran for sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa, on the Peace and Freedom ticket in 1968.
During those years published poetry and stories in dozens of magazines and literary journals, including The American Review, The World and Tri-Quarterly, as well as writing political columns, and music, book and movie reviews for alternative newspapers and magazines, like The Iowa Defender, Middle Earth and Liberation News Service, and wrote the autobiographical South Orange Sonnets, which in 1972 won the 92nd Street Y New York Poetry Center “Discovery Award.”
In early ’70s, taught at Trinity College, Washington DC, while writing book reviews for The Washington Post and helping found the weekly poetry reading series and magazine Mass Transit as well as the small poetry press Some Of Us Press (publishing first books by Bruce Andrews, Terence Winch, Tim Dlugos, and Lynne Dryer among others), and continuing to write for various alternative newspapers around the country like The New Prairie Primer, The Great Speckled Bird and The Los Angeles Free Press, and publishing poetry in literary journals and little magazines like The Partisan Review and Kenward Elmslie’s ZZZ.
First book, What Withers, published in 1970. By 1980 there were twenty, including the 1974 poetry collection Rocky Dies Yellow and the 1978 collection of prose and poetry Catch My Breath. In ’74 edited the seminal poetry anthology None of the Above, received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Award, and wrote the long autobiographical poem My Life, which, upon receiving second NEA Poetry Award in ’81, was denounced as pornography on the floor of the U.S. Congress by right-wing politicians in their first attempt to discredit and dismantle the National Endowment for the Arts.
Moved to Manhattan in ’75 as a single parent raising son and daughter while writing a small press column and book reviews for The Village Voice, among other publications, starting another small press venture, O Press (publishing books by Terence Winch, Bruce Andrews, Diane Ward and others), and acting in several off-off-Broadway productions, like the revival of John Ashbery’s The Heroes, and on TV and in movies—starring in two independent horror films, Dracula’s Last Rites and The Nesting (Gloria Grahame’s last film and one of John Carradine’s last).
Moved to Santa Monica in ’82 to act in movies and TV mostly as a bad guy, like Sykes in the film White Fang and a psycho detective on the TV show JAG, and the occasional good guy, like a gay philanthropist in the film Not Again and an artist murder witness on NYPD Blue. Also wrote on several movies, like the narration for Drugstore Cowboy and climactic speech in Pump Up the Volume. In ’94 spoken word poetry CD What You Find There came out from the SST label and in ’97, Cant Be Wrong, a collection of poems, won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles “Excellence in Literature Award.”
While living in Southern California, co-founded Poetry In Motion, the weekly poetry reading series that became a standing room only sensation for several years, most of those years at the then new club Largo, and co-founded and edited the magazines The Hollywood Review and Venice.
In ’99 moved home to New Jersey and Black Sparrow Press published a collection of poetry and prose, It’s Not Nostalgia, which won an American Book Award. In 2001, Black Sparrow published another collection of poetry and prose, It Takes One to Know One.
Wrote March 18, 2003 for a reading—on what turned out to be the eve of the invasion of Iraq—at the Paula Cooper Gallery in NYC, with Robert Creeley, Anne Waldman, and Ann Lauterbach, and introductory remarks by Ramsey Clark. The poem was published in 2004 by Libellum and went through two editions. A third edition was published by Libellum and Charta, with more drawings by Alex Katz and a preface by poet/translator Vincent Katz, in 2006.
In the early 2000s continued working as an actor on TV appearing in shows like Ed, Law & Order, Big Apple and Deadwood (playing a crusty old cavalry captain on the latter).
In 2010, Lost Angels, a new CD of poems from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s set to music and recorded in Venice, CA, in ’96 was released (with a cover photo by Gus Vant Sant taken in ’89). (It can be ordered at Monomania Records or CD Baby.)
Still lives in Jersey and once again a single parent, sharing custody of his young son, and continuing to publish poetry and prose in magazines and online, like Ocho and Court Green, as well as a blog that incorporates movie, music, book and art reviews along with political commentary and personal history, called Lally’s Alley.
Copyright 2003-2011 Michael Lally. All rights reserved. Contact: lallyjmf AT comcast DOT net