University of Orange presents Michael Lally’s Swing Theory poetry reading at Luna Stage Theatre
By Patricia Rogers
As you all know, I attend many productions at Luna Stage. This one was different. University of Orange, the local free people's university, hosted writer Michael Lally. The great American poet Michael Lally shared pieces from his 2015 book, Swing Theory. What a great way to kick off their spring semester!
Mindy Fullilove, MD, calls Lally “the voice of our city.” Lally was born in Orange, New Jersey but grew up in South Orange. He has come back to his hometown. As an aspiring writer, it was refreshing to attend this poetry reading. I had not read Swing Theory, but I had to hear Mindy’s favorite poet.
On the leap year, I walked into Luna Stage was greeted warmly by friends Molly Rose Kaufman, Naeema Campbell, and Khemani Gibson. University of Orange’s Academic Dean, Aubrey Murdoch, greeted the guests in the black box theater and welcomed Mindy, who read from her favorite poem, "Love Never Dies."
Michael Lally took the stage and the room got quiet. In opposition to the sensitive lines of "Love Never Dies," Lally opens with a punch. He reads from "Before You Were Born." This is when I knew to tune in because I was going to gain a lot from Michael’s words.
Lots of shit dies
Parts of me are
But love isn't...
-- excerpt from "Love Never Dies"
One of the best aspects of the reading was Michael inserting short anecdotes about what was going on in his life at the time, including making hard decisions about his writing career, the challenges of not selling out, then selling out. What really hit home was his struggles being in an interracial relationship in 1970’s.
I could live on the streets
sleep in abandoned buildings
drink cheap rotgut
take whatever drugs are offered
and tell you to go fuck yourself
when you tell me to give up
the life of a poet and get a job,
but I already did that
before you were a gob of spit
hanging from the lip of
Charles Bukowski who had a
nice secure job at the post office back then.
-- excerpt from "Before you Were Born"
This hit home for me, and I was inspired by Michael’s brutal honesty and unique voice in his writing. Like Mindy, his theories on spirituality and relationships to God resonated with me. What are you giving into the universe, and what is it giving back to you?
I was excited to be able to meet the poet and get a copy of the book Swing Theory. I was also able to ask him a few follow up questions.
P.R.: I am working on a story about the poetry reading. I want to say I enjoyed it and got a lot from it. Your work, and personal tidbits throughout the reading, served as great insight for me as an aspiring writer.
Michael Lally: It was great meeting you. Thank you for your interest in my work.
What were the poems read at the reading?
“Before You Were Born,” “Birth/Rebirth,” “The God Poems,” “Dear Birds,” excerpts from “Poem on the Theme of Arthritis,” “Swing Theory 3,” excerpts from “So, And,” “November Sonnet,” “How the Dark Gets Out,” “To the Light,” and “Love Never Dies”… (for the encore I read “My Life 2” from the book IT’S NOT NOSTALGIA)…
Why is Swing Theory a special book for you?
For several reasons, including the fact that it’s my latest book and my first in several years, that I am turning 74 and who knows what might be my last book, also it is a collection of poems written in this century (except for “Before You Were Born”) and not included in other books, the fact that it partly traces the life of my youngest child who was born in 1997, the format, which was suggested by the editor, Dick Lowrie, which inspired me to write the series of “Swing Theory” sonnets that end each section, and that the poems hopefully reflect at least some lessons learned after being alive for over seven decades…
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Three main points: first, read as much as you can and discover your own favorites, then study their writing more closely to see what it is you like about them; second, have someone in mind that you feel you’re writing to, even if just an ideal reader; and third, build a list of people you encounter who write, or edit or publish writing, and stay in touch and let them know when you are giving a reading or have a piece of writing or book being published...
How does it feel to read your work to the community of Orange?
It felt great. I left this area when I was eighteen, in 1960, because of the ways in which the community was unfriendly to me and my writing, and my other creative activities, as well as to my beliefs (like that we’re all one race, the human one, etc.), and didn’t live here again until 1999 when I was delighted to discover that the area had become more accepting of my perspective and work…
You can purchase Michael Lally's Swing Theory on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Swing-Theory-Michael-Lally/dp/1934909920
About the Writer
Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more. She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services. Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @zine_editor (Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat).