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Archive for June, 2009


Saturday, June 27th, 2009




In memory of Michael McGettigan

Where does it say you have to play your cards
the way you played your horn? Where did it say
the road you’d walk would shrink to miles and yards
of first-class golf course holes up in Coos Bay?

I knew you when you spoke to me of songs
and dreams. Leave California. Settle down.
New Orleans was the place. A sad heart longs
to beat a whole new way — you heard its sound.

You played it all by ear, threw down your heart,
bartended nights; by day you owned the club.
Golf kept the wolf at bay. Golf let you start
again from scratch each day. Was this the rub?

Since when can’t life be one big hole-in-one?
Where did it say your hurt was yours alone?

— Al Young

© 2009 Al Young



Saturday, June 27th, 2009



Courtesy photo

“Just look over your shoulders, honey!”
— Michael Jackson with the Jackson Five, “I’ll Be There



Lisa Marie Presley

“Years ago Michael and I were having a deep conversation about life in general,” [Lisa Marie] Presley, 41, writes. “He stared at me very intensely and he stated with an almost calm certainty, ‘I am afraid that I am going to end up like [Elvis Presley], the way he did.’ I promptly tried to deter him from the idea, at which point he just shrugged his shoulders and nodded almost matter of fact as if to let me know, he knew what he knew and that was kind of that.”
— Lisa Marie Presley,
People, 26 June 2009



When Thriller hit, I was fully in my forties and jumping up and down on my exercise rebounder in the livingroom of the little house I shared with my wife and son. There was no music better for bouncing the body about to stay in shape. Rebounders were all the rage, and so was Jackson. To “Billie Jean” or “Beat It,” I could work up a sweet sweat and take delight in flailing my arms and twisting my body in disco dance postures soon to expire. Out of the corner of my ear and eye I had followed the Jackson Five phenomenon —  the bubble-gum Motown pop hits, the TV cartoon show. Later I would notice the remarkable resurrection of MTV with the airing of Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” I took all this in the way we always register our culture at large; it was all in the wind. Up in the air now  the future of celebrity worship blows.. That consumers (as distinct from citizens) of the United States respect and pay tribute to the alleged achievement of rich, famous individuals reminds us how doggedly we cling to our loneliness and isolation from the rest of the world and one another. But there’s a twist. Throughout most of the world, people celebrate Jackson’s artistry. Here in the land of his birth, it’s a different story.

— Al Young


Brooks Barnes: A Star Idolized and Haunted, Michael Jackson Dies at 50, New York Times, June 25, 2009

Richard Prince: Michael Jackson Death Dominates the News, Journal-Isms (Maynard Institute), June 26, 2009

Steve Kendall: Neither Black Nor White, Spin, June 26, 2009

David Walsh: Michael Jackson’s death, World Socialist Web Site, June 26, 2009

Carolyn Kellogg: Michael Jackson, the bookworm, Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2009


CB068378 © Tempe, AZ Public Library
michaeljackson-scholar Courtesy photo

Avid reader Jackson


Cecil Brown: Social Drama or Feeding Frenzy? The Media Sharks Are Circling Michael Jackson, San Francisco Chronicle, December 7, 2003

Ishmael Reed: The Persecution of Michael Jackson, CounterPunch, June 29, 2009

Esther Iverem: Never Can Say Goodbye,, June 30, 2009

Paris, Moscow, Bucharest and New Delhi celebrate Michael Jackson’s Birthday (slideshow),, August 30, 2009

Jermaine Jackson & World Awards Media present The Tribute In Memory of Michael Jackson | Vienna, Austria, September 26, 2009

Jermaine Jackson on Michael's Mission





Michael Jackson 25 Years After Thriller | Ebony/NPR (2008)


I’ll Be There
video mash-up
(Jackson Five)

Billie Jean

(Michael Jackson)


mj-moonwalker-promo-pix moonwalk-nasa1

Promo photo for Moonwalker | Apollo moon shot © NASA


ALI AKBAR KHAN (14 April 1922-18 June 2009)

Saturday, June 20th, 2009



Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, master sarodist


Born in East Bengal (Bangladesh), the inspirational virtuoso and teacher of music has died at his San Anselmo, CA home.


Ali Akbar Khan College of Music obituary

Swara Samrat Maestro Ali Akbar Khan
April 14, 1922 – June 18, 2009

Our most beloved Khansahib passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family on Thursday evening.  Khansahib had been a dialysis patient since 2004, and had been enduring numerous health issues ever since.  The great Maestro had continued his music teachings publically at the Ali Akbar College until just weeks ago, and continued to teach music at home until the day he died.

The memorial service and burial will be held at Mt. Tamalpais Cemetary (2500 5th Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901), Sunday, June 21st at noon, followed by a gathering at the AACM.  Due to the overwhelming amount of phone calls, please send all correspondence via email to .
All messages will be received and as many as possible will be responded to.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to AACM for the Ali Akbar Khan Library.


William Grimes: “Ali Akbar Khan, Sarod Virtuoso, Dies at 87”; New York Times, 19 June 2009




Ustad Ali Akbar Khan & Pandit Nikhil Banerjee

Listen and view


Forthcoming: Poet Al Young’s stories about his late guitarist friend Perry Lederman’s association as student and staffer with Ali Akbar Khan, and Young’s own 1990 poetry & sarod concert taped in Dhaka, Bangladesh with the grand-nephew of the great master. Young will also interview saxophonist John Handy, who recorded and toured worldwide with Khan during the 1970’s and 80’s.




Friday, June 19th, 2009



(L-R) Aubry Labrie, Marvin X , Abdul Sabri, Al Young, Arthur Sheridan, Duke Williams |  Sausalito, CA, 18 June 2009

Photo: Michael Childs


They came together at  the 65th birthday party of Marvin X, a group of men who ignited black liberation on the West Coast during the 1960’s while students at San Francisco State University, namely Abdul Sabri, Aubry Labrie, Duke Williams, Arthur Sheridan and Marvin X. Also Saddat Ahmed and Joe Goncalves, who went on to publish the bible of 60’s poetry, the Journal of Black Poetry.

The group traveled to Soledad prison to present and perform at the black culture club, chaired by Eldridge Cleaver and his lieutenant Alprentice Bunchy Carter. Arthur Sheridan had been contacted by Cleaver’s lawyer Beverly Axelrod to make the Soledad prison visit. Black Dialogue was Art’s idea and he became the founding editor.

This culture club was the beginning of the black prison movement in America, and when Black Dialogue met the club, it established a unity between the prison movement and black students who were also members of the budding black arts movement. Black Dialogue and the Journal of Black Poetry were major publications of BAM with influence coast to coast. These journals, along with Soulbook ( a RAM publication) and John H. Johnson’s Negro Digest/Black World, the New Lafayette Black Theatre, were critical publications of the neo-black intellectuals nationwide, spreading radical consciousness into the black liberation movement in general.

It was Art Sheridan who told Marvin X he might consider hooking up with a playwright named Ed Bullins and the two formed Black Arts West Theater in the Fillmore, 1966, a West coast version of what LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Askia Touré, Larry Neal, Sun Ra and others were doing in Harlem.

On Thursday night [18 June 2009], Black Dialogue brothers came together to present at a poetry venue hosted by Arthur Sheridan in Sausalito, a mostly white community near San Francisco, where Arthur is the Black Prince who lives in a houseboat in the Bay. California’s Poet Laureate emeritus Al Young was the featured poet. Al also contributed poetry to Black Dialogue and acknowledged Art for showcasing his early work, as did Marvin X. Duke Williams also read, although Duke was modest since he is a singer as well. Marvin read from his memoir: Eldridge Cleaver, My Friend the Devil.

The Brothers agreed to continue their Black Dialogue tour. Al Young agreed to join them [as his schedule allows]. They will co-sponsor and perform at Marvin X’s August 1st book signing and conversation (with James W. Sweeney) at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 14th and Franklin, downtown Oakland.

Ladies, watch out! Marvin’s sister Debbie said she didn’t know her brother had such handsome friends.

Call 510.355.6339 for more information. Catch Marvin X’s classic play, Flowers for the Trashman, at the San Francisco Theater Festival in July.

— Marvin X



Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

“I know I am but summer to your heart,
and not the full four seasons of the year.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay




© AlYoung.org______________________________


Early tomato champ |    Al Young

palmy-afternoon1 Al Young

Date Palm afternoon


Photo courtesy of Bo’s Barbecue & Catering, Lafayette, CA

(L-R) Four Nerds: Al Young, Mark Cohen, Alan Fambrini, Dan I. Slobin (all but Fambrini have been pals since Central High School, Detroit, the 1950’s)


Photo: PC Mack
sharon-coleman-at-bcc1   Photo: Al Young

Sharon Coleman conducting her three-day Summer Creative Writing Intensive at Berkeley City College, June 2009

lorna-dee-al-at-bcc Sharon Coleman

Invited guest poets Lorna Dee Cervantes and Al Young at Berkeley City College’s Summer Creative Writing Intensive, June 2009

dan-kate-july-2009  Al Young

Dan and Kate Robbins at their Santa Cruz digs, Bastille Day 2009

milo-nuts-out Al Young

Milo Robbins nuts out on sock cymbal.

al-dan-july-2009 PC Mack

Al Young and Dan Robbins relax before rehearsing new poetry & jazz material on a hot Santa Cruz afternoon near the Pacific.

kate-al-persis-shot-3  Photo: Kindness of Strangers

Poet-novelist Kate Evans, Al Young, and poet-essayist Persis Karim pose on the Berkeley Pier following lunch at Skates on a gorgeous afternoon by San Francisco Bay.


Emerging sundeck tomato, mid-July 2009
Al Young


Perennial newlyweds Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich at Squaw Valley Community of Writers, August 2009. | Al Young



Al Young with Stacey Knapp (glasses off, glasses on): writer, bookseller, and a joy every summer to Squaw Valley’s visiting authors, readers, editors and literary agents as well as fanciers of baseball caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts and ski vests.  | Photos: Louis B. Jones


Amy Tan and Al Young in August light, Squaw Valley 2009
Photo: Kim Palchikoff


(L-R) Alan Cheuse, Kris O’Shea, Gabrielle Houston, Al Young, Cori Houston,and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston gather for a shot hours before the memorial tribute to James D. Houston at Squaw Valley Community of Writers, August 2009.  |   Photo: John Neville


Diana Fuller, Squaw Valley’s screenwriting program director, with Al Young and Dr. Harold Weaver in a toast to the Weavers’ 70th wedding anniversary, 2009. | Photo: Brett Hall Jones


Blair Fuller, co-founder with Oakley Hall of Squaw Valley Community of Writers, relaxing at the annual Argentine asado hosted by Eddie and Osvaldo Ancinas. With George Plimpton, Fuller also co-founded the Paris Review. |Photo: Al Young


Truckee River residence bouquet
Al Young


The spiderwalk in full summer splendor   | Al Young


August tomatoes
Al Young