Lee Lally (1947-1986)

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Lee Lally is the author of These Days (Some of Us Press, 1972). Individual poems of hers were published in The Trinity Record, The Gay Liberator, and December. A co-founder of Some Of Us Press, she served as treasurer and bookkeeper. According to another co-founder, Ed Zahniser, “Lee’s meticulous attention to this critical function is the single most important reason “ for the press’s success. The press was active from 1972-74, and published 16 titles.

Lally grew up outside of Buffalo, NY, and attended the University of Buffalo, but never earned a degree. She married Michael Lally in 1964, and in the Fall of 1969 they moved to DC, where her husband had gotten a job in the English Department at Trinity University. They had two children together, a son and a daughter. In 1971, they organized the Mass Transit reading series at the Community Bookshop in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, a series that continued weekly for many years.

According to Michael Lally, Lee’s poems were “an instant hit. Feminists adored her work and These Days had an immediate impact on many women, as well as men.” He continues, “The poems in it were influenced by the blues Lee loved (Memphis Minnie was a particular icon of hers) and old timey country (Mama Maybelle Carter another of Lee’s great influences and loves). And of course it was influenced by the sexual politics we were living through and experimenting out of. Lee had taken a female lover and encouraged me to take male ones, as part of what we thought was going to be the liberation of future generations from the bonds of gender and sexual discrimination.”

The Lallys separated in 1974 and later divorced. For a few years, the house they had shared on Emory Place in northwest DC became a lesbian-feminist commune. Michael Lally remembers that it “was a funky old place when we lived there. The neighbors often gave us a hard time for not cutting the lawn etc. in that suburban way people seem so addicted to. There was an old glass house in back of the main house. We didn’t use it for anything, but there were still plants overgrowing the place from when it was in use. A great open porch, we did a lot of sitting and discussing and arguing on. A couple of nice huge old trees as well (can’t remember what kind, maple? oak?). And there was a Western clothes store at the end of the street (Wisconsin? and Emery) where Lee worked part time as a seamstress. She did all the alterations for them. She was pretty adept at any kind of craft or art involving hand-eye coordination.”

In 1980, Lally fell ill from an ovarian infection, caused by an IUD. Complications from the surgery to remove the IUD resulted in a coma that lasted for six years. She spent those final years in a hospital in DC and a nursing home outside of Boston, and died in 1986, without ever regaining consciousness.

Beltway Poetry Quarterly: http://www.beltwaypoetry.com/poetry/poets/names/lally-lee/

Submitted by Kim Roberts, December 2013

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