Michael Lally (poet)

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Michael Lally
Born (1942-05-25) May 25, 1942 (age 80)
Orange, New Jersey
OccupationPoet, Playwright, Actor

Michael Lally (born May 25, 1942) is an American-born poet and the author of more than 30 books of poetry. He is considered part of the New York School of poetry, which began in the early 1950s and is acknowledged as one of the most influential movements of American poetry. He counts among his major influences the poets Frank O'Hara and William Carlos Williams, as well as writer William Saroyan.[1][2][3]


Early years[edit]

Lally was born in Orange, New Jersey, the youngest of seven in an Irish-American family of policemen, priests, and politicians, and raised in South Orange, New Jersey.[4] His autobiographical style of poetry and prose reflects on American culture from the 1950s forward: civil rights, gay rights, women's rights and anti-war movements and his active participation in each.

Lally started out playing piano and reading his poetry in coffeehouses and bars in 1959. In 1962 he joined the United States Air Force, where he spent more than four years as an enlisted man, and later used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. In the Fall of 1968, while living in Iowa, Lally actively campaigned for the position of Johnson County Sheriff as part of the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.[5]

Writing career[edit]

In 1972 he wrote the autobiographical “South Orange Sonnets” which received a New York Poetry Center Discovery Award.

Acting career[edit]

He moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1982 and acted in movies and TV (as Michael David Lally), mostly as a bad guy and the occasional good guy. He was seen in films including Basic Instinct (1992), White Fang (1991) and Cool World (1992), as well as on TV as Captain Bubb in Deadwood (2004), Walter Hoyt on NYPD Blue (1995–97) and Detective Frank Costa on JAG (1997–98).[6] His writing found its way into several movies including .

Personal life[edit]

Lally has been married three times. His first wife was Carol Lee Fisher from 1964 to 1979. His second wife was Penelope Milford from 1982 to 1984.[7] He then wed a third time to Jaina Flynn in 1997 before separating in 2003. Lally has three children: Caitlin, Miles and Flynn.



  • Another Way to Play (Seven Stories Press, April 19, 2018)
  • Swing Theory (Hanging Loose Press, May 15, 2015)
  • March 18, 2003 (book-length poem with illustrations by Alex Katz, Libellum, 2004) (third edition, Charta, 2006)
  • It Takes One to Know One: Poetry & Prose (Black Sparrow Press, 2001)
  • ¿Que Pasa, Baby? (prose poem, Wake Up Heavy Press, 2001)
  • It's Not Nostalgia: Poetry & Prose (Black Sparrow Press, 1999)
  • Of (book-length poem, Quiet Lion Press, 1999)
  • Cant Be Wrong (poetry, Coffee House Press, 1996)
  • What You Find There (poetry compact disc, New Alliance Records, 1994)
  • Hollywood Magic (poetry, Little Caesar, 1982)
  • Attitude (poetry, Hanging Loose Press, 1982)
  • White Life (poetry, Jordan Davies, 1980)
  • In the Mood (poem, Titanic Books, 1978)
  • Catch My Breath (poetry and prose, Salt Lick Press, 1978; second edition, 1995)
  • Just Let Me Do It (poetry, Vehicle Editions, 1978)
  • Charisma (poetry, O Press, 1976)
  • Rocky Dies Yellow (poetry, Blue Wind Press, 1975; second edition, 1977)
  • Mentally, He's a Sick Man (prose, Salt Lick Press, 1975)
  • Dues (poetry, The Stonewall Press, 1975)
  • My Life (poetry, Wyrd Press, 1975)
  • Sex/The Swing Era (poetry, Lucy & Ethel, 1975)
  • Oomaloom (prose, A Dry Imager Production, 1975)
  • Malenkov Takes Over (poetry/collage, A Dry Imager Production, 1974)
  • Late Sleepers (poem, Pellet Press, 1973)
  • The South Orange Sonnets (poetry, Some Of Us Press, 1972)
  • Stupid Rabbits (poetry, Morgan Press, 1971)
  • The Lines Are Drawn (poetry, Asphalt Press, 1970)
  • MCMLXVI Poem (poem, The Nomad Press, 1970)
  • What Withers (poetry, Doones Press, 1970)
  • White Lies (prose, Donovan Press, 1969)


  • Four Grown Men, The Ear of the Dog Poets Theater Festival, 1982, New York, NY
  • Hollywood Magic, Stages Theater, 1983, Hollywood, CA 1983
  • The Rhythm of Torn Stars, 1988, The Pacific Theater, Venice CA (co-wrote)
  • Chicks: A Spiritual Quest, 1995, 321 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA


  • Co-authored Fogbound (with Ate De Jong), which was a finalist at the 2003 Hollywood Film Festival and winner of the 2003 Best Feature Film award at the 5th International Panorama of Independent Filmmakers Festival in Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • Contributed to many screenplays including Drugstore Cowboy, Pump Up The Volume, The Laureate, and many more.


Notable awards[edit]

  • American Book Award, 2000
  • PEN Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature, 1997
  • The Pacificus Foundation Literary Award, 1996
  • National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, 1974 and 1981
  • The Poets Foundation Award, 1974
  • The New York 92nd St. YMHA Poetry Center Discovery Award, 1972


  1. ^ "Michael Lally". Outlaw Poetry. Outlaw Poetry. August 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Michael Lally". The Poetry Foundation. The Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  3. ^ Myles, Eileen (18 April 2018). "First of All I'm Naked: On the Collected Poems of Michael Lally". The Paris Review. The Paris Review. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  4. ^ Stewart, Susan. "Food, Drink, and Plenty of Literary Dish", The New York Times, November 25, 2007. Accessed July 28, 2011. "Michael Lally, a New Jersey poet, did not seem to be suffering from a surfeit of fame. He sat at the writers’ table and waited his turn at the lectern.... Mr. Lally read next, from a work-in-progress he called “Poor Moth Boy on the Moon,” about growing up Irish Catholic in South Orange, N.J."
  5. ^ "Johnson Co." Times-Democrat (Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa). November 6, 1968. p. 4. Retrieved April 20, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "Michael David Lally".
  7. ^ "Michael Lally wedding invitation". From A Secret Location. From A Secret Location. December 30, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]