MARCH 18, 2003
by Michael Lally
Is from Libellum, publishers
211 West 19th Street, 5th Floor
(36 pages, cover by Alex Katz, no price or distributor mentioned, but you can probably ‘Amazon-it.’ )

In keeping with the times, someone brought this small, beautifully designed and produced book, instead of pro forma wine, to dinner last night. And what a timely gift! Lally read this at an anti-war poetry reading of the title date at the Paula Cooper Gallery. Indeed I think it’s the best contemporary political poem I have read. (I recently read Zukofsky’s A-10 - written in 1941 - which is also right on the pulse, as well).

Lally - who picks up Frank O’Hara’s open voice, questioning ‘personism’ persona - takes that mode a full step further - and essentially both the country and the globe into a dartboard of targeted questions aimed at multiple political hotspots in which each line of fire keeps splitting the rhetorical board into pieces (Iraq, Palestine-Israel, Voting Machines, Torture, etc). Instead of “personism”, one might call the mode “a-personism” - where the person’s voice becomes an Everyman who is the antithesis of most everything you find of FOX TV. (Lally taking the pants off O’Reilly and his ‘factors.’) I can only exemplify, from near the start:

If some white folks build
a housing complex on an Indian reservation
with money from white supremacists
and they use the few resources
the reservation has to make their housing project
bigger and better than the Native American houses
and some of the Native Americans
demonstrate against this, and the response
of our government is to build a barbed wire fence
around the white enclave and send soldiers
to man watchtowers and protect the whites
and this pisses the Native Americans off
and their demonstrations get rowdy
and some Indian kids throw rocks at the soldiers
and the soldiers shoot and kill some of these kids
and the Indians get even more upset
and vow to stop the settlements
and get the whites off their land…

The 34 pages mount into a literal ‘tour-de-force’ - harsh & cleansing, and a genuine public poem, where such is so rare. It’s such a difficult thing to do. (One thinks - through out the sixties and seventies - where most public efforts at the form became either a parody of Howl or somehow could never break away from the umbrella of that work. Z’s “A-10″ is a refreshing forbear of Howl - tho more mediated in its anger and rebuke). Lally’s poem strikes me as a genuine break through - partly because its so both deeply informed and felt, but the more so because it radiates the vulnerability that I think many of us experience now in relationship to what appear as overwhelming Corporate, etc. odds. While, at the same time, the work is definitely an unshakable call for “the rocks” in whatever form one can shape those in language, or whatever counter-offensive medium - say ‘voting’ - one can still count as one’s own.

I say get it and spread it around.