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Steve Dalachinsky. Photo: Andrew Lampert.
Steve Dalachinsky. Photo: Andrew Lampert.

Steve Dalachinsky (1946–2019)

The New York poet Steve Dalachinsky, who drew inspiration from the downtown jazz clubs at which he was a beloved fixture, has died at age seventy-two. The author of poetry books including A Superintendent’s Eyes (2013) and Where Night and Day Become One (2018), Dalachinsky often wrote while listening to jazz. “Music is my main obsession, and in avant-garde jazz the artists are always taking risks,” he explained. “My poems in part follow and try to become part of that rhythm, that movement, that risk.” The nonprofit Blank Forms announced his death, which occurred on Saturday not long after Dalachinsky attended a Sun Ra Arkestra concert. His last words: “Maybe I overdosed on Sun Ra.” He is survived by his wife, artist and poet Yuko Otomo.

Born in Brooklyn in 1946, Dalachinsky studied painting at the Pratt Institute before discovering the Beats, who inspired him to focus on poetry full-time. “Dalachinsky paints in verse,” wrote Alan Kaufman in a review for A Gathering of Tribes, the magazine created by Steve Cannon, who died earlier this year. “His verse line is his de Kooningesque brushstroke—singularly, unmistakably his, and loaded both with hard-earned Kunst and Gotham grit.” Kaufman was reviewing A Superintendent’s Eyes, which, like much of Dalachinsky’s poetry, mined his own experience—in this case, as a super in his building on Spring Street.

“I don’t even like being called a poet—it’s a big label,” Dalachinsky once said. “I don’t think anyone should be pigeonholed.” His work has been anthologized in Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and Downtown Poets; in 2015, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his poem “Particle Fever.” Dalachinsky’s most celebrated book may be The Final Nite: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook (2006), a compendium twenty years in the making that won a PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award in 2007.