Steve Dalachinsky

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Steve Dalachinsky
At the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival
Brooklyn, New York
Notable works
  • A Superintendent’s Eyes
  • The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook
Notable awardsOrdre des Arts et des Lettres
SpouseYuko Otomo

Steve Dalachinsky (born 1946) is a New York downtown poet, active in the music, art, and free jazz scene.[1] He has written poetry for most of his life and has read frequently at Michael Dorf's club the Knitting Factory, the Poetry Project and the Vision Festival, an Avant-jazz festival held annually on the Lower East Side of New York City. Dalachinsky has also read his works in Japan, France and Germany. He has collaborated with many musicians, writing liner notes for artists: William Parker, Susie Ibarra, Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Jim O'Rourke and Mat Maneri

Dalachinsky has authored numerous books including a compendium of poetry written while listening to saxophonist Charles Gayle perform throughout New York City, and a collection of poems which focused on his time as a superintendent at an apartment building in Soho. Along with pianist Matthew Shipp, he co-authored the book Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue and collaborated with French photographer Jacques Bisceglia on Reaching Into The Unknown. His spoken word albums include Incomplete Directions and a collaboration with Shipp on the album Phenomena of Interference. Dalachinsky's works have also appeared in several journals and anthologies as well.

He is a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, received the Franz Kafka Prize, Acker Award, PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award and was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife, painter and poet Yuko Otomo.

Early life[edit]

Let’s put it this way, I’m a poet – or let’s put it more succinctly – what I’ve done for the better part of my life – besides complain and be rude to people – is write poetry – I write poetry, you know? That’s what I do.

~Dalachinsky, [2]

Dalachinsky was born in 1946, Brooklyn, New York, "right after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little wars", which is how he is frequently described.[3] He grew up in the Midwood section of the borough that was mostly an Italian and Jewish neighborhood with parents that were working class.[2] Dalachinsky said he was "always writing" at an early age and was also "involved in art". His earliest notebooks of his writings that have survived go back to when he was between the ages of 13 and 15.[2] He was once kicked out of a Hebrew school because he was "wearing a cross", and hung out with the Italian kids in the neighborhood which "framed his perception of being Jewish", according to him.[4]

Dalachinsky started taking art lessons at the Pratt Institute where for 18 months he first attempted his hand at painting, eventually turning to writing poetry full-time. It was during this period in his life when he discovered beat poetry and found the poetry scene in Manhattan.[4] He was given copies of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which he says changed his style of writing.[4] Dalachinsky was also influenced by the writings of: Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Ezra Pound, Delmore Schwartz, Federico Garcia Lorca, and William Blake, especially the work Auguries of Innocence by Blake. Besides writers, he counts obsession, socio-political angst, human disappointment, jazz music and abstract visual art among his influences.[5] Dalachinsky has described his process of writing as "spontaneity mixed with a conscious pushing" and a "descriptive transformation".[4][5] His works have been described as leaning towards "transforming the image rather than merely describing it".[5]

For 19 years, starting in the 1980s, he wrote some of his poems while listening to live jazz music, going to free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle's performances, creating poems on scraps of paper.[2] In 2006, Dalachinsky published a book of poems devoted entirely to Gayle,[a] with the poems appearing chronologically in the order of the venues where Gayle performed at.[6] The collection was honored in 2007 with a PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. The book is also unusual because not only is it documenting the music, but also Dalachinsky's state of mind at the precise moment of capturing a musical phrase. Sometimes when Gayle's performance came with a sermon or lecture, commenting on topics like abortion or racial separatism,[6] Dalachinsky would react with his poems reflecting the mood:

i am angry with him
for gross behavioral disorders
but when i trap my oppressors
behind my eyes
it is the white of their greed
i see

— Dalachinsky, [6]

Dalachinsky also released a collection of poems, titled A Superintendent’s Eyes, ISBN 978-1-5702-7272-1, which focused on his time as a superintendent at a Spring Street apartment building in Soho. It was published by the Unbearables, whom both him and his wife have a connection with, and describe themselves as a "loose collective of noir humorists, beer mystics, anarchists, neophobes and passionate debunkers".[2] In his 2013 review of the book, Alan Kaufman wrote: "It is the single most important volume of poetry to appear in the last ten years...he is the poet that America has been waiting for to free our national verse from its stratospheric sense of self-importance and return us to a poetry of flesh and heart, song and cement, just as Whitman's Leaves of Grass did in the nineteenth Century".[7] The poems were written over 20 years and described by Kaufman as, "ash can sonatas to lovemaking with wife, eating out in restaurants, illness, cancelled hopes, money worries, cash scores, tenant complaints, landlord humiliations and ruminations on drug addiction".[7] In one poem written while his wife was away in Japan, and he was relocating his writing space, he begins:

snowflowers breathe into my face
i am stuck like the hands of 2 lovers circling
i know my shapes
but even children grow into wars

— Dalachinsky, [7]

Readings, collaborations and writings[edit]

The process for me is both the forced intention of wanting or needing to write a poem mixed with the free flow of writing a poem...I try to subvert a lot of linearity intentionally because I’m so bored...I’m a romantic writer.

~Dalachinsky, [2]

Dalachinsky has read throughout the New York City area including at the: Poetry Project, Vision Festival, ISSUE Project Room and the Knitting Factory.[5][1] and also read in San Francisco.[8] Abroad, he had read his works in Japan, Germany and England, where he read his Insomnia Poems, a collaboration with composer Pete Wyer for BBC Radio 3.[9] In France, Dalachinsky has performed extensively, earning the award Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has read in Bordeaux, Sète and in Paris at Les Instants Chavirés and the L'Olympic Café.[9] He has read at the Centre international de poésie in Marseille, Maison de la Poésie de Nantes at Pannonica, participated in the Sons d'Hiver Festival and the Val-de Marne International Poetry Festival.[9]

In 2011, he collaborated with French duet art-rockers The Snobs on Massive Liquidity. In 2015, he worked with Alex Lozupone's group, Eighty Pound Pug on a jazz-metal album; and with German visual artist Sig Bang Schmidt on Flying Home[3] In 2017, he collaborated with his wife on two projects, Frozen Heatwave and Black Magic. Dalachinsky has written liner notes for recordings of several musicians: Roscoe Mitchell, Charles Gayle, Anthony Braxton, James Blood Ulmer, Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell, Assif Tsahar, Derek Bailey and Rashied Ali.[8] Additionally, he has collaborated with musicians: William Parker, Susie Ibarra, Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Mat Maneri, Federico Ughi, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Rob Brown, Tim Barnes and Jim Rourke.[3]

Other books and chapbooks he has written include: Quicksand, The Invisible Ray with artwork by Shalom Neuman, Lautreamont's Laments, Dream Book, In Glorious Black and White, St. Lucie, Are We Not MEN & Fake Book, Trial and Error in Paris and Where Night and Day Become One, from his trips to Paris.[3][9][10] His spoken word albums include Incomplete Directions, Phenomena of Interference with Matthew Shipp and I thought it was the end of the world then the end of the world happened again with Federico Ughi.[3]

In 2015, he released a heavy metal album, Leave The Door Open. Culture Catch stated "Dalachinsky's self-deprecating Brooklyn humor and existentialist beat musings, more usually accompanied by free jazz, prove highly compatible with this doomier sound keyed on Lozupone's electronically combined bass and guitar. Really, what better to accompany a 9/11 poem that starts, "I thought it was the end of the world/And then the end of the world happened again"?".[11]


His poems are included in the anthologies:[9]

Beat Indeed, Writers Beyond the Margin Downtown Poets
Resistance A History of Jews and the Lower East Side Help Yourself
Viviparous Blenny Outlaw Bible of American Poetry Ragged Lion
Hurricane Blues Up is Up but So is Down La tentation du silence
Le gout du Jazz An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind The Unbearables
The Worse Book I Ever Read Off the Cuffs In the Arms of Words


His works have appeared in the journals:[9]

88 Mima'amakim Lost and Found Times The Wandering Hermit Review
Bathtub Gin Home Planet News The GW Review Gare Maritime
Unarmed Polisz Alternating Current N.Y. Arts Magazine
6x6 Cannot Exist Blue Beat Jacket Alpha Beat Soup
The Helix Tribes Evergreen Review Xtant
Long Shot Unlikely Stories Ratapallax Xpressed

Books dedicated to jazz[edit]

I wrote theses several hundred poems while listening to the music–the rhythms–the movement–the physical space I was in and whatever was happening or had happened around me just all fit together.

Avant-garde jazz has been a major inspiration for his writing, with five books of his poems dedicated solely to jazz musicians. All of them being written while listening to the music live.[3]

  • The Final Nite: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook - written over 20 years of listening to saxophonist Charles Gayle.
  • Logos and Language: A Post-Jazz Metaphorical Dialogue - a collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp.
  • The Mantis, - a chapbook for pianist Cecil Taylor covering 50 years, the first written when he was 19.
  • Reaching Into The Unknown - collaboration with photographer Jacques Bisceglia written from 1967 through 2011.
  • Long Play E.P. - a small chapbook for saxophonist Evan Parker.


Electronic, experimental, spoken word, abstract and poetry albums (including collaborations):[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook, 1987–2006 ISBN 978-1-9332-5415-9



External links[edit]