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Michael Lally reads from ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY, Poems 1960 – 2017

I’ve been working on a project recording poets reading poems or getting poets to send me videos of themselves reading poems that are in Readings In Contemporary Poetry, DIA Art Foundation, a recent anthology edited and beautifully put together by Vincent Katz, a book that is wonderful to hold and entertaining to read that I will talk about later in another post.

The poem by Michael Lally in the Dia anthology is Two Post-Brain-Operation Observations. I liked it so much I asked him to please send me a video of himself reading it, which he did, a selfie that his son Flynn helped put together. When he emailed it, he remarked: “One of the odd things about the video is that it’s a mirror image…the George Schneeman collage calendar should be over my right shoulder etc…but then the book designer also reversed the Van Sant photo on the cover to be a mirror image too…life’s a trip, as they used to say.”

Like his poetry Michael Lally is always noticing things, everyday insights, epiphanies. The book with the Gus Van Sant cover, Another Way to Play, Poems 1960 – 2017, is going to be published in April by Seven Stories Press. Very few I think have lived the last sixty years as thoroughly as Michael Lally. With the current administration in Washington, there is bad news daily; these selected poems are good news, and as good news always does, I realize it’s not as bad as I thought it was. I am really looking forward to the Another Way to Play.

Two Post-Brain-Operation Observations

Just took a pretty brisk walk, several blocks,
in the cool, crisp air.

A bright and shiny day, at times almost chilly,
but felt so good to be out and feeling stronger.

The caw of a lone crow was so sharp and clarion,
it felt like the definition of what it means to be alive.

The last leaves still falling, the endless (we hope)
natural cycles.

How wonderful and fine life is when the possibility
of losing it becomes so current and realistic.

To be alive, what can disturb the awe of that
realization? Today, nothing.

It’s been difficult for me to listen to music since
the brain surgery. The sounds that normally blend
into a cohesive whole in most recordings, my brain
was somehow atomizing into discrete units that
made each musical moment sound overwhelmingly
complicated—jarringly, gratingly so.

Difficult to explain or articulate. I tried one day on my
first outing in my little town where I was being helped
by my friend Sue and ran into another friend, the great
jazz pianist Bill Charlap. I was excited to communicate
what I was experiencing with music, but I’m afraid I
came off as a little out of my mind, which is of course
partly what this whole experience has been about.

But yesterday, I tried listening to some music again
and it sounded close to normal. I hit the shuffle key
on my laptop and the first tune was an old Billie Holiday
recording from the early ’30s, THESE’N’THAT’N’THOSE
(beautiful tone to her voice) followed, as it happened, by
Bill Charlap’s trio’s version of SOME OTHER TIME, as
close to Bill Evans as is humanly possible, while still
being Charlap. A haunting tune, one of my favorites.

Photo by Sue Brennan

Another Way to Play is published by Seven Stories Press. You can check them out here:


cover photo by Gus Van Sant.

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