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Michael Lally Archive

The archive contains extensive material documenting the life and work of poet, small press publisher, and actor Michael Lally. It is particularly strong in correspondence related to Lally's involvement with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets during their formative years and the poetry communities in Iowa City, Washington, D.C., and New York City. The diversity of the material in the archive is a reflection of the wide arc of Michael Lally's life and is also the archive's strength.


Michael Lally on the cover of Little Caesar, no. 11, 1980. The issue also includes poetry by Michael and an interview with him conducted by Tim Dlugos.   Michael Lally on the cover of Home Planet News,
vol. 2, no. 1, Summer, 1980.


As a poet, a fearless, edgy poet, Michael Lally has been giving readers his version of history for the past 35 years. He has done so with the political forthrightness and performance punch of Ginsberg, with the wit and language skills of O'Hara. But because of the place of poetry in this country, a bard like Lally, while a member of the Pantheon to all manner of poets, remains unknown to the public at large...

— Bob Holman

The François Villon of the 70s.

— John Ashbery

Michael Lally is a fine poet and looks straight into your eyes.

— James Schuyler in "The Morning of the Poem"

The Cosmic Jitterbug! He's all appetite.

— Ray DiPalma

A damn good poet, man.

— Etheridge Knight


Brief Biography of Michael Lally

Michael Lally was born into an Irish American South Orange, New Jersey working class family. He attended the University of Iowa where he quickly bonded with Ted Berrigan who was teaching at the Iowa Writers' Workshop (Berrigan would later in 1977 address his "New Personal Poem" to Lally). In 1968 Michael came in second in his run for sheriff of Johnson County, Iowa on the Peace and Freedom ticket. While in Iowa he also became friends with with Etheridge Knight of the Black Arts Movement, as well as classmates Ray DiPalma and Alice Notley.

In 1969, Michael moved to Washington, D.C. to teach at Trinity College and became involved in the poetry scene there. He started the Mass Transit poetry reading series (1971–1974), considered an important incubator for Language Poetry and launched Some of Us Press (SOUP) with Lee Lally, Ed Cox, and Tina Darragh. SOUP was a collective that published his The South Orange Sonnets (1972) as well as first books by Bruce Andrews, Tim Dlugos, Terence Winch, and Lynne Dreyer. While living in a lesbian feminist collective commune with his wife and children, Michael began to explore his own sexuality with both men and women. He chose to call himself a "revolutionary faggot" rather than "bisexual" causing him to lose a job and friends. His lifestyle and the sexual openness of his poetry led to his inclusion in gay publications.

In 1975 Michael separated from his first wife, the poet Lee Lally, and moved to New York. In New York he started O Press, which published Bruce Andrews, Terence Winch, and Diane Ward. In an attempt to unify what seemed to be distinct communities of poets he edited the important anthology None of the Above: New Poets of the USA (The Crossing Press, 1976) which included Language poets (Ron Silliman, Bruce Andrews, and Ray DiPalma), New York School poets (Alice Notley and Joe Brainard) as well as poets working outside any particular community association such as Patti Smith. Lally and John Ashbery were the inaugural readers for the Ear Inn reading series (organized by Ted Greenwald and Charles Bernstein) in fall 1978.

Michael left New York for Los Angeles in 1982 to pursue opportunities in film and television as a writer and actor. He was in numerous movies, television episodes, and plays. In addition to writing screenplays and plays, he was also a script doctor and helped with the narration for Drugstore Cowboy. Shortly after arriving in California his Hollywood Magic (Little Caesar, 1982) was published by Dennis Cooper (who had already published Lally in Little Caesar magazine). Cooper encouraged his involvement in the Beyond Baroque reading series. Later Michael would co-found with Eve Brandstein the Poetry in Motion series (1988–1996) that garnered much media attention with its mix of Hollywood celebrities (Alec Baldwin, Robert Downey, Jr., and Ally Sheedy) and poets (Jack Grapes, Hubert Selby, Jr., and Wanda Coleman).

His remarriage and move back to New Jersey in 1999 is told in Michael's poem "It Happens" in It's Not Nostalgia (Black Sparrow, 1999), a collection that received the American Book Award. In 2006, Lally began the blog Lally's Alley where he writes daily reflections on matters ranging from his personal life, movies, and politics to poetry.


Selected Highlights from the Archive

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Summary of the Michael Lally Archive


Correspondence related to his literary activities includes many manuscripts and a range of ephemera from poets, friends, and colleagues including: Kathy Acker, John Ashbery, Paul Auster, Bill Berkson, Charles Bernstein (including a "collaborative essay"), Ted Berrigan, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Jim Brodey, Rudy Burckhardt, Tim Dlugos, Kenward Elmslie, Elaine Equi, Merrill Gilfillan, John Godfrey, Darrell Gray, Ted Greenwald, Robert Grenier, Barbara Guest, Lyn Hejinian, Leland Hickman, Anselm Hollo, Christopher Isherwood, Etheridge Knight, Kenneth Koch, Doug Lang, Phillip Lopate, Bernadette Mayer, Dave Morice, Eileen Myles, Gerald Nicosia, Alice Notley, Marjorie Perloff, Tom Raworth, Jerome Rothenberg, Jerome Sala, Harris Schiff, Peter Schjeldahl, Simon Schuchat, Hubert Selby, Jr., Ron Silliman, Lorenzo Thomas, Tony Towle, Paul Violi, Diane Ward, Lewis Warsh, Barrett Watten, and Jonathan Williams. Correspondence is especially rich and extensive with Bruce Andrews (includes collaborative manuscripts), Max Blagg, Joe Brainard, Gerald Burns, Tina Darragh, Ray DiPalma, and Terence Winch. (See also publishing correspondence below.) Also included is correspondence with friends and colleagues related to ML's career as an actor and screenwriter in Hollywood such as Alec Baldwin, Carrie Fisher, Ralph Bakshi, and Sharon Stone.

Publishing correspondence

Correspondence related to his publishing activities includes: Steve Abbott, Michael Andre, Victor Coleman, Dennis Cooper, Bill Corbett, Michael Friedman, John Giorno, Jim Haining, Robert Hershon, Vincent Katz, Allan Kornblum, Annabel Lee, George Mattingly, John Martin, Douglas Messerli, K.K. (Kim) Merker, Opal L. Nations, Aram Saroyan, Charley Shively, Jack Skelley, Morty Sklar, and Bill Zavatsky.


There are approx. 4 linear feet of material related to ML's published work including manuscripts, drafts, some publicity, and proofs. There are an additional approx. 900 pages of assorted manuscript pages for both published and unpublished poems; approx. 2400 pages of unpublished manuscripts, including short fiction, novel, essays, and poetry; 5 spring bound manuscript books with poems in chronological order, approx. 1500 pp.

Other writing

Manuscripts for essays on poetry, gender and sexuality and other topics, approx. 1 1/2 linear feet.

Journals, calendars, daybooks, scrapbooks, and address books

3 Scrapbooks, 1942 – ca. 1986; 32 calendar books and daybooks, 1982 – 2010; 13 journals, approx. 1000 pp.; and 13 address books.

Magazines, newspapers and books

Approx. 350 newspapers and magazines containing work by Michael Lally, including alternative press newspapers such as All You Can Eat (1972), Fag Rag (1973), The Great Speckled Bird (1970-1971), and literary magazines Blue Suede Shoes (1971), Bad Breath / Stage Ax / Emily Likes the TV (1975), and Buffalo Stamps (1972). There are also approximately 20 anthologies with work by Lally and approximately 20 books by Lally.


Screenplays and play scripts written by ML, contracts and other items related to ML's acting career.


The archive comprises approximately 44 linear feet (33 boxes, plus oversize) and is housed at Granary Books.