Tag Archives: David Bowie

2016: The Year Everyone Died

24 Feb

And just like that, February is almost over.

I finally stumbled out of the David Bowie mourning phase. In the meantime, every creative person in the world seems to be dropping like flies. First Bowie, then Alan Rickman, Glen Fry, George Gaynes, Dan Haggerty, Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, Harper Lee, Umerto Eco, Abe Vigoda, for Pete’s sake.

2016: The Year Everyone Died.

I think it’s time to form a protective circle around Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

That said, let’s recap: I have much thanks to give.

So first off, thank you to the Commonline Journal for accepting this poem, The Preacher. The subway continues to be a never-ending supply of sad/weird/beautiful.

And to Red Fez for taking Thirty-Seven.

And to Dead Snakes for giving a home to Membership, Blackstar and Radiation Day 26. All cancer poems and I swear, Blackstar was written before I knew anything about Bowie’s last album. Honest.

Also thanks to Drunk Monkeys for giving a home to When David Bowie Was Dying.

Speaking of the late great Starman, I also wrote this essay for Barrelhouse called Can You Hear Me, Major Tom? which owes a special thank you to my older sister, Jennifer who was the first one to introduce me to Bowie. A gift she probably didn’t realize that I would carry through my entire life. So thanks, Jenn. You’re a good sister.

 

I was really excited to have my essay included, because guys, honestly, there are some really amazing stories in here. And, because Barrelhouse is so awesome, they decided to put the whole thing together in a free downloadable ebook entitled And The Stars Look Very Different Today: Writers Felfect on David Bowie

How cool is this??!! Thanks so much to Barrelhouse, especially Sheila who rocks.

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Since Bowie died, there have been tons of really great tributes, but I think my favorite so far is Strung Out In Heaven.

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Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer pulled this lovely tribute together thanks to her Patreon. John Cameron Mitchell is on it and when I say that the German version of Heroes is incredible, I mean uber-incredible.

The track listing is fantastic, the strings are divine and yes, I cry when I listen to it. It’s cathartic. Leave me alone.

In non-Bowie news (What? What’s that?) I am really excited to say that I joined the staff of Yellow Chair Review as an essayist/interviewer/whatever-random-tidbits-I-think-of-saying-that-the-editor-in-chief-agrees-to-publish-ist.

My first piece went up this month. It’s about lying and telling the truth and the importance of doing both in storytelling as long as you have heaps and heaps of empathy. Empathy is everything (in life too). It’s mainly about people’s reactions to This Is Sarah and their disappointment when I explained to them that I was neither Claire, nor Colin, nor Sarah. That while I made them and their story up, the emotions behind it are real.

Because I am real. I swear.

So thank you to everyone for everything and all that. Hugs and starbursts forever.

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Next up, I had some time off last month and that meant that I was able to go gallivanting around New York City, my home, as a tourist/traveler. No I’m not talking about the Empire State Building, I’m talking about ART-ING.

We hit The Met, the MoMA, and some galleries (eek!) which was really a big deal cause honestly, that can be super awkward. First off, I can’t buy actual art on a librarian’s salary so if I get a hard sell I tend to just stare at the ceiling until they give up and walk away. Secondly, often we’re the only people in the place which means that either a) they act like you’re not there and you feel like you’ve crashed some private party or b) they act like you want a personal tour and you have to make awkward small talk and pretend that you know how to talk about art.

That said, awkwardness aside, galleries are totally worth it. Museums are great, don’t get me wrong. You need to go see all the Rembrandts and Monets and Van Goghs. But seeing the work of contemporary – sometimes still living breathing artists –  is so important.

It’s like a water fountain that fills my thirsty art-making face. Or something like that.

So the first was a Betty Tompkin’s exhibit at FLAG entitled Women: WORDS Phrases and Stories. I’m not going to go into too much detail here because Sarah at YCR  might (fingers crossed) publish the thought piece/review I did on the exhibit. So I’ll just share some images. We’ll let the art speak for itself.

 

I also saw Vincent Smith’s work. Mr. Smith, who passed away in 2004, was a prominent member of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and a Brooklyn native (woot!). He gets compared to Romare Bearden (which I can definitely see) but there’s something very Debuffet going on here, don’t you think?

The actual canvas is covered in dirt and rocks that have been painted giving it so much texture – hence my Debuffet comment.

So to recap, galleries =a touch intimidating but definitely good.

The return to writing the last two weeks has been good. Actually wrote some poems thanks to reading Eileen Myles who is incredible. Really moved by how frank she is.

And back to working on Gravity Wins, the book about my falling in love and then off a waterfall. #LongStory

That said, been reading through my old journals and even thought I know hindsight is 20/20 and even though I know it wasn’t really like this, part of 1993-1994 with two very good friends felt an awful lot like the dance scene from Godard’s Bande A Part:

 

and also this:

 

Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

 

The Stars Look Very Different Today

12 Jan

 

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
 - Mary Oliver

 

I needed something else to think about.

It was as complicated and as simple as that.

I had always been a fan. In fact there was a period of time when Hours was on constant play in my home. But in June of 2014, after I was diagnosed at 37 with cancer I needed something else to think about.

That something became David Bowie.

I listened to him and only him constantly. I analyzed his lyrics. I filled in the gaps of my record collection. For a period of time the only thing that stopped me from worrying about a premature death was David Bowie.

I had three surgeries that summer. I wore my David Bowie t-shirt to all of them. It sounds stupid but I needed him. I needed a little bit of stardust and magic.

He was the only one, even now, that has truly and completely transcended the chasm that my diagnosis ripped through my life. Every other musician feels….tainted. I can’t listen to their music because it belongs to that other life. In the same way that when I look at photos of myself right before diagnosis, I think “that girl, right there, has cancer and doesn’t know it yet.”

Bruce. Bob. Ryan. Everything felt like it was tethered to a life I was, in a very real way, no longer living. Except Bowie. Bowie, like the starman he was, found a way to bridge the gap, to pull me over, to help to slowly stitch up that rip.

(Coincidentally my husband experienced the same thing with music and also found someone to carry into this new strange life. His was Neil Young.)

I am in no way exaggerating when I say that David Bowie’s music saved my life.

And now here we are. And David Bowie has died.

It seemed impossible, even as my husband, as gently as he could broke the news to me.

I spent close to an hour in a state of absolute shock and then, when that finally wore off, crying.

I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because I thought that maybe I could fill this star-sized hole inside of me.

David Bowie died.

How was that even possible?

He lived for 18 months with terminal liver cancer. He kept it a secret.

He would have been diagnosed around the same time as me. Spring/Summer 2014.

For awhile I kept my cancer a secret too.

In the last year of his life, he worked, just like he did in all the other years. Because the work mattered. Because he crafted a giant net in which all us freaks could be together. Could find each other. Could love.

There was a piece in the New York Times last weekend about how you should live every year like it’s your last. This is unabashedly how I try to live. Even before the diagnosis. I recognized how incredibly unlikely it is that we should even exist. Every single one of us is a product of everything going exactly right. Miraculously right. The fact that the right sperm and egg got together. The fact that your parents even met. That their parents before them met. Every perfect necessary  moment stretching back through all of time.The slim chance that we all somehow managed to survive.

To be here. Now.

To have been lucky enough to have lived in the world at the same time as an artist like David Bowie. To be inspired. Delighted. Moved and,  yes, saved.

Saved.

So thank you, David Bowie. From the deepest bottom of my very broken heart.

Remember friends, you only have so much time. Don’t waste it.

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Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Prague: Refugees Welcome (Part 2)

11 May

So where did we leave off?

Oh that’s right, the train ride back to Berlin.

While we were there we went grave hunting cause that’s what we do and came across these two:

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Yes indeed those are the Brothers Grimm, librarian/fairy tale collector extraordinaires.

And because we love all things Bowie, Jay found where he lived:

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And hung out:

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and recorded Low and Heroes and produced The Idiot for Iggy Pop

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We also went to Bableplatz – the site of the infamous Nazi book burning in 1933

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Now, Bableplatz has a makeshift library complete with comfy bean bag reading chairs

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And a memorial to the Empty Library which includes a glass cut square below the platz that depicts empty shelves. The Nazi’s burned around 20,000 books, including books by Heinrich Mann, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein.

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At the Neue Wache up on Museum Island we found this chilling memorial by Käthe Kollwitz  entitled Mother with her Dead Son. The memorial includes the remains of an unknown soldier and a nameless concentration camp victim.

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My birthday, May 1st is also May Day in Europe – a massive spring celebration. In Berlin it’s also a time of protest. We had heard about how great Kreuzberg  was and the day before my birthday headed out there to see the East Side Gallery (a long segment of the graffiti wall) and have the most amazing burger at Kreuzburger (seriously if you’re ever there you have to try this place). So we figured for my birthday we’d head back that way.

This was our first mistake.

Kreuzberg (surprise!) is also home to some of the most famous and violent police and demonstrator clashes on May Day. As the elevated subway pulled into the neighborhood, there were THRONGS of people. And by throngs I mean thousands and thousands of people. We could barely get out of the subway station, which the police were blocking to prevent overcrowding on the platform (I think). The crowds had a penchant for 90’s rap. I’m not kidding. We heard Snoop Doggy Dog.

The feeling was intense, electric. Standing amongst them, aside from feeling incredible old, I couldn’t help but realize that this is what political activism can look like. That after Nazism and Communism Berlin is still making herself over and it’s being done by the young people. It’s vital.

I would love to see how this city is going to transform itself over the next 25 years.

I didn’t shoot this film but it is from May Day, 2015 in Kreuzberg.

From Berlin, we took the train south to Leipzig.

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Bizarre sculpture depicting life under Nazism and then Communism.

Leipzig is Bach-land. Bach lived and worked in Leipzig, raising a considerable family and caring for the choirboys at St. Thomas Church where he was Kappelmeister. He’s buried inside the church.

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But Bach isn’t the only game in town. There is also an extensively done Felix Mendelssohn Museum:

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which included his DEATH MASK!

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After he died, Wagner being a massive anti-Semite started trash talking Felix. The idea that he was a lesser composer took root and by the time the Nazi’s were in power, Felix was all but wiped off the books. The statue that had been erected for him was melted down. It took until 2008 for a replacement to be erected.

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And the morning that we were scheduled to leave Leipzig for Prague (and then from Prague back to Berlin to fly to NYC) the Germans decided to have a major transit strike, thereby shutting down the Deutsche Bahn for 10 days. Which meant if we went to Prague we could feasibly not have a way back to Berlin to fly home.

So naturally we went to Prague.

Part 3 coming up next…..

Peace love and Starbursts,

Ally

Six Gallery Bowie

20 Jun

So back in 2008, Six Gallery Press published my first (and currently only) book of poems entitled The Wanting Bone.

Why am I telling you this? Cause they got a new blog and I think you should check it out.

They publish really great writers like John Grochalski (who in full disclosure I am married to, but my opinion of his writing is totally unbiased, I swear) and Don Wentworth (who not only is a fantastic poet but runs Lilliput Review one of my favorite mags) and Scott Silsbe and Jason Baldinger and Jonathan Moody and Kris Collins and lots and lots of other really really great writers.

Prove it, you say? Here, in fact, is a bit of that pudding:

Stop counting syllables

Start counting the dead

                             – From Past All Traps by Don Wentworth

History isn’t like us at all, it seems. And lately,

it’s hard to tell who’s doing the remembering anyway.

At any rate, the chalkboards tire of synonyms.

and all those left behind mourn less and less.

Everything’s erasable for someone at a dead end.

No regrets this year. Better luck next time.

                                           – From Beyond Naming by Scott Silsbe

See? Really great stuff.

In other non related news, here’s some Bowie. Why? Because…it’s Bowie.

The thing I love about this video is that even though Tilda Swinton is in it, I’m still not convinced that she and david bowie are not the same person

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