The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

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OCT 2019 Issue
In Memoriam

A Tribute to Steve Dalachinsky


Portrait of Steve Dalachinsky, pencil on paper by Phong Bui.
Portrait of Steve Dalachinsky, pencil on paper by Phong Bui.

Mark Bloch

There’s always human curiosity about how death happened, designed to help us cope with a friend’s sudden disappearance. Let me unfurl the tale of Steve Dalachinsky and “A Book About Death” (aka ABAD), his final gig.

As Yuko wrote to me, “why don't you write about the day... how we drove reading the cut-up Buddhist scripture on ‘impermanence’ & talking of the last waltz of Leonard Cohen on the way to… ABAD & Ray Johnson in Long Island where he lived & died... how all the puzzling elements fell into the right place with Steve's sudden unexpected collapse... so people will get the magical mystery of the cosmic happening we witnessed...”

Steve Dalachinsky at the Knitting Factory, October 4, 1999. Photo © Alan Nahigian.

So there you have it. And here: In 1963, Ray Johnson created A Book About Death, unbound pages sent randomly to correspondents by mail over the next 30 years. Friday the 13th of January, 1995, Ray Johnson leapt to his death in Sag Harbor NY, becoming legend. In 2009, ex-patriot Paris artist Matthew Rose honored Ray with the first ABAD show at the Emily Harvey Foundation in New York, a collaborative catalyst event for many, including Steve. After 29 ABAD iterations in nine countries, LuAnn Palazzo invited me, Steve, and others to perform this year at the 10 year ABAD celebration at the Islip Art Museum.

Steve enlisted trumpet player Pasquale Cangiano to accompany him and drive. At 1:30 pm Steve, Yuko, Betty Esperanza, an ABAD artist from Montreal, and I piled into Pasquale’s Volvo. Between Yuko settling into a lazy nap and Betty making an iPhone movie, I spent the 2 hour ride stuffing chopped paragraphs from a Buddhist text into colorful plastic spheres found on 2nd Avenue, creating “death fortune cookies.” In the front seat, Steve and Pascale swapped stories about poetry, improv, and jazz friends non-stop.

Having overcome obstacles like Soho’s San Gennaro Fest and the creeping Long Island Expressway, we emerged in Islip, spinning from fast conversation and slow traffic. Many performers preceded our arrival. Betty went first, reading Cohen’s Last Waltz. Steve and Pasquale went next. An excerpt of Steve’s passionate, energized reading appears below. I poured my colored balls onto the floor and made sure everyone got one and some ABAD irony.

Within the hour, Pasquale asked me where Steve was. We learned he was in the bathroom, queasy, disoriented, having a stroke. We talked him through it, called 911 and Yuko accompanied him to the hospital. All the ABAD guests, artists and museum staff were crushed by news of Steve’s exit but all had confidence he’d be OK.

It was not to be. His remarkable brain thought its last thought later that evening and the night after he passed—with Yuko and friends around him.

And so this whirlwind was a little more than what was bargained for. Steve died at 5am the Monday after a weekend that started with a Friday the 13th when we were all still in Manhattan, planning our performances, taking things for granted.

Yuko Otomo

Journey on the Fish (man and woman)

we are tied
by an eternal fate

I, holding your darkened mask,
you, mine

your silenced flesh
becomes mine
when I bury my face
into the palm of the sea

The above poem from an ekphrasis poem cycle “Genesis” that I wrote for Max Beckmann describes our relationship most clearly. We were like 2 orphans thrown into the world, deeply wounded & connected, reflecting on each other constantly. Despite oppositional personalities, we had an identical sense of aesthetics, value systems & life philosophy. We led a uniquely rich life together for 4 decades with our Bohemian principles even if it forced us to accept the lack of comforts in general. Our intense love for music, art, literature, cinema & anything creative made us who we were. We never intended to be poets, but we were.

Steve was a force of Nature, driven by compassion & curiosity. He was opened to everything & everyone. He was naked inside & outside with no boundary between. He saw, listened, looked, felt, touched & tasted everything around him & wrote & made collages. He obsessively chased the “Joy of Life” non-stop & he shared it with anyone with no condition. He was one of the most open hearted human beings I have ever known. That is why I loved him.

He was most known for his involvement in jazz, but that was just a part of his wide scoped existence. He hated being called “Jazz-Poet” although his love for jazz manifested most significantly. His passion for visual arts, cinema & nature made him write many poems that are not known compared to his jazz related poems. He was in love with everything marvelous. Seeing a sunset by the river or a moon through fleeting clouds was as important as listening to music or contemplating art. On the way to see Sun Ra Arkestra, the last live music of his life, on that fatal Saturday afternoon, we saw a poisoned dying young city rat on the sidewalk. He stopped & talked to it & gave a prayer. He had a natural born Buddha head & was always genuine in every aspect of life.

I am still in awe of his mysterious collapse that took place so unexpectedly, so sudden & so fast as if we were thrown into the cosmic twist of time’s flow that neither of us could have a grip to stop it. The fact that his last reading of his life took place in the opening of the exhibition A Book About Death dedicated to Ray Johnson in Islip where he lived & died makes me think extra deeply on Life & Death. Steve managed to see his postcard work of Emily Dickinson with a praying skeleton on the exhibition wall as he started to weaken. Everything was just too strange. One of our favorite books of all time was Jacques the Fatalist and his Master by our hero Denis Diderot. We used to toss the question & wondered together “Is it written up yonder?” He asked himself in one of his own poems “Is there a grand design?” Now, these questions make the door further wide open to the cosmos & its mystery.

The last line he uttered before his consciousness faded away was “I guess I overdosed on Sun Ra…” to which I replied, “I told you so…” Yes, we did overdose on Sun Ra Arkestra, seeing 3 full sets & a half in less than 2 weeks before this fatal event. What an immensely adventurous amazing life we shared! “Space is the Place!” Sun Ra is telling us as Steve & I sing together for eternity.

Yuko Otomo, Alan Nahigian, and Steve Dalachinsky on the Bowery. Photo © Helen Chang.

Alan Nahigian

Steve (a real Brooklynite in posture and accent) and Yuko were my first real New York friends. We shared a love for art, music, and books. I arrived in 1981 but I can’t seem to recall ever meeting Steve formally—somehow it feels as though I’ve always known him, no first meeting necessary. This was before Steve became a fixture on the music scene.

We would go see films mostly at the Film Forum, a couple of blocks from his Soho apartment. Then we started going to some downtown performance spaces—Neither/Nor, and later New Music Café and First on First. We started frequenting a new place called The Knitting Factory where Steve became the adopted mascot gaining free entry to all the performances.

“How do you know all the musicians,” he asked after we had just seen my friend violinist Billy Bang perform at Neither/Nor. I told him to just go ahead and introduce himself; most of them would appreciate his interest in their music. In a short time Steve was on friendly terms with every musician he admired. Steve and Yuko were ubiquitous on the music scene. If they weren’t around, there had to be a reason why.

Steve was not just familiar with downtown, we were invited to a Charles Gayle recording session at A&R studios April 14, 1988, for lunch Steve took me to the back room of an old Irish tavern in Hells Kitchen for best corned beef and cabbage I ever had. How did he know about this place?

I’m blessed to have witnessed Steve go from a sidewalk seller of books, records and homemade cassettes on Spring Street to an internationally acclaimed poet and collagist and Yuko a gifted, multifaceted artist and poet, their workspace having been a small table in their tiny apartment kitchen.

Steve lived life his own way, except for a short stint as a super in his building, Steve never had a day job, refusing to compromise his chosen lifestyle . With Yuko as his loving partner and collaborator, Steve lived a successful life on his own terms and his own signature style. I’m proud of you, Steve.

Andrew Lampert

The absolute cruelty
of irrevocable change

and this ugly word: loss

A future guaranteed imperfect

the historically bad past

there is only present tense

Steve, forever in the now

thinking of him

as was




He is

he is what he is

will continue to be

for everyone

I mean us

I mean me

in the audience

at the gig

in the know

the real deal

man that sounds stupid

over simplified

what is real, to whom, etc.

and yet, really, that is what

he was and is

Always there

he was always there

oh, forgive me, is always there

he’s still here

delusional, maybe
grief holding out hope

that he’ll be there
tonight at the show

where he surely would be

Steve was poor but rich

in his rent controlled life
wealthy with loving Yuko’s exquisite patience

loaded with friends, music, words

but you know

what he wanted

besides accolades, respect

all the reassurances and encouragements

that arrive posthumously

what Steve wanted

besides money

wanted more than anything

most days, above all

a perfect pancake

large, falling off the plate

real maple syrup

so he didn’t have to bring his own

and a big coffee

topped with steamed milk

with free refills

My seven year old daughter is hung up on fairness

it’s not fair that I get dessert and she doesn’t

it’s not fair that one kid did something and another kid is crying

Wherever Steve is now

better have

great pancakes


it’s not fair

William Parker

I met Steve Dalachinsky at the Knitting Factory in the 1980s. In those days the audience was small, but this small, full of life man who on one hand was a throw back to the ’60s beat generation and on the other hand a futuristic space traveler. A word griot who was a constant presence at avantgarde music concerts. Listening and writing in notebooks or scraps of paper the things that came through him as the music would soar and resound. We got to know him, and he became friends with all of the musicians. That friendship was built upon a shared love of creativity.  Steve really loved people young and old. His path was filled with a wide range of relationships.  All day he was on the move going from museums and art galleries to poetry readings of other poets as well presenting his own work. Traveling around the city, the country and abroad stating the case for poetry. On a deeper level he was on a path of self-healing and learning as we all are “the art of living.”


you were just getting started

 it happened so quick

 didn’t have time to blink my ear

strange not seeing you

where did you go ?

Steve……………. Steve……………..

you were just getting started

Steve Dalachinsky. Photo © Alan Nahigian.

Neeli Cherkovski

I was in Paris, a city Steve Dalachinsky loved, when a phone call informed me of his sudden death at the age of 72. This remarkable poet had so much more spirit to share. His passing shocked everyone because he seemed the eternal youth. He has left a great void. Yet we have his poems and the enduring lessons of “eternal delight” that comes from celebrating words, music, and the visual arts. The Dalachinsky world survives in our hearts. It is like a whimsical sun peeking from the corner of a cloud or a disk of cold moonlight over St. Marks in the Bowery.

Steve and I read together in Manhattan two years ago and were scheduled to perform this October in Colorado and in San Francisco alongside his partner Yuko Otomo. At this moment he has a free arm around my shoulder and is whispering about some of our heroes, John Coltrane, Gregory Corso, and Sun Ra among them. We’re staring out of my hotel widow at the Seine. “Steve, l love you,” I say to the hotel walls.

Long may this heroic soul remain… May the NYC subways and taxi cabs continue to shout out his name… And may the night lights in Paris shine in praise of his song. I miss him so much. No more wild emails and frantic phone conversations on reading dates and poetic magic.

Steve served as a mentor to many younger poets inspired by his esprit and unpretentious challenge to preserve poetry in its most primal form, forget about MFAs and officialdom. Run with a free and ruffled heart onto the streets, into the woods, and across the waste land. Take to the open road. Dream with Dalachinsky.


Hang on to the Yangtze River
And fingers of sanity
Hang on to arms covered in light
Raise an amber lamp over the sun
Say good morning to the ambivalent
Cow grazing in the field

Leap over the crypts of Andy Warhol
And Henry James, listen for the roar
Of Ginsberg’s ghost
As you widen a path past private
Property, you, bleeding poetry
Breathing silence

Blue mind blue Coltrane
Save your life for the day of your death
Be old and young before golden
Age of mid-town poesy

Hang on to red ribbons dropping out
Of the clouds
Oh Garcia Lorca paves lonesome streets

Wysten Auden awakens on Lower East
Berrigan wise and young
Amiri and Leroi arm in arm
Allen gorges in an automat

Jack Micheline hits the scene
Hart Crane peeks out of a window
Still a teen, saddled with verse
And concrete waves

Waldman waits, Coolidge wanders
Bernadette Mayer paces
Oh Steve Dalachinsky
Hang on, pal, give death a break
kind and handsome
Jazz loved your art

Hang on to merging waters
Hang out with your buddies
Tell Yuko secrets from around the
Corner where Lorca longed for more
Sky, where Dylan Thomas drank himself
Into a sonnet of broken notes

Bodenheim peddling poems on
The sidewalk
Cummings shopping in a Village store
Young Di Prima like a rain shower
Notley out of Needles
Failed dreamers writhing in cold rooms
Off Avenue C

Your town, lunch at Katz’s
A mazel tov for the garden
Geranium skyscrapers preaching doom
Gregory Corso singing looney tunes
Edna Millay, Yuko Otomo

Hang on Dalachinsky
Crazy Crow
Yes we wait in a cafe
As you make your way
To see us, oh we read later
In San Francisco with
Clark at B and Beckett
I open my arms wide

You Beam
The rabbis prance round bison
At Central Park Zoo
Crisp Autumn leaves on ground
Of the museum
Hang on bright moon

Cherish a lantern thru dawn
Draw a superintendent’s throat
In the form of poesy
Yes you sound like the muse
Who delivers us all

Lyon France
Sept 19 2019

Matvei Yankelevich

I met Steve in early 2001, and from around that time he became a friend and frequent collaborator of many of us in the UDP family. The day he was in the hospital, I was at Ugly Duckling Presse, reading some of his poems with some friends, including one called "Rags" published in a tiny match-book size booklet by Poems-For-All. The poem starts with the word “actually,” and it comes up again in its final turn. It’s one of the words I often heard him say with a sardonic tone in his gravelly Brooklyn way. That word in that particular intonation sums up what underlies all his poems: a desire to reveal all the many wrongs of our world—the small injustices, and the great injuries—never to let them pass unseen in the shadows, and to defend poetry from all of them. Steve was uncompromising in his desire to live life as a poet, and he was an indomitable supporter of many younger writers, musicians, and artists. He lived a complete and unbridled engagement with the arts and the people he loved. Though tough or even bristly at times, he showed his love so generously, and was the most loyal friend a young poet coming up in New York could hope for. He was that, also, for many musicians that I knew in those downtown days—a time for which he seems an emblem. He had listened, more than many of us could imagine, to poetry, to avant-garde jazz, to experimental music, every single night of his life, it seems, sometimes showing up at several readings and concerts in a day. From his honest feedback, solicited or not, you could tell he had been listening. In fact, if anyone was listening, it was Steve. If only we could all listen to each other that way.

* * *

Here is a recording of Steve reading with guitarist Loren Connors in the UDP office/printshop in the cellar of the Can Factory, in 2011. He dedicated the reading to Billy Bang, who had died around the time of this event.

Anselm Berrigan

I heard Steve read last fall at a book party for this extended Burroughs/Ginsberg conversation-turned-book, and he prefaced his reading by saying that being given Howl and Coney Island of the Mind when he was institutionalized as a teen saved his life. I asked him about that at a party at Anne Waldman’s on New Year’s Eve a few weeks later. I remember having a profound, funny, open, beautiful, mutually self-deprecating conversation about his clearly difficult-at-best experiences as a youth that completely moved me, and reinforced a feeling of real love for the man. Right now I can’t remember a damn particular from it, except his face, smiling, sitting next to Yuko, so obviously gassed that I remembered and wanted to know more. I never think it’s corny when someone says poetry saved their life. It’s one of the primary things poems do, for all the hack yap about what the art does or doesn’t deliver. I invited Steve to read at the Poetry Project on a Wednesday night back in 2005 or 2006. It was long overdue, and he was brilliant in front of a packed Parish Hall. The funny thing is, he got heckled by the drunkest dude I’ve ever seen at the Project, and I had to get the guy out because his asyllabic commentary wasn’t in sync with Steve’s improv rhythms. I gave the guy a ten, he was stunned, and left. Later he was still in the churchyard. I thought, the one person we had to make leave turned out to be the last person to leave. That seems weirdly right. I feel like I owe the Ugly Ducking Presse folks, especially Julien, a big thank you for bringing Steve into my life. Mainly I just wish I’d talked with him more, though I’m grateful for the conversations we had, and for this constant reinvention of the angle Steve always seemed to be making take place.

Steve Dalachinsky and Vito Ricci at the Knitting Factory, October 4, 1999. Photo © Alan Nahigian.

Penny Arcade

For the past 30 years I watched poet and collagist Steve Dalachinsky go from worshipful fan and acolyte of the Beats and jazz greats to an entity himself, a master. Dalachinsky’s unexpected death created a tsunami of loss that swept simultaneously thru the poetry world, the jazz world and the art world. Dalachinsky was my brother, my comrade, with Dalachinsky, in this careerist world, I didn’t feel alone.

With the death of Dalachinsky there is a line of demarcation like where the trees get thinner and thinner near the shore. Who now will rail against the politics of art? Who will represent, who will model the life of the living poet? We needed Dalachinsky more than he needed us.

Hatless, his silver hair an electric halo, his grey coat pulled around him, Dalachinsky rushes to another reading, another jazz gig. He was always on to the next event and every time I let him drag me somewhere, I was happy, even astonished that there was so much authenticity left in art in our ravaged city. Steve complained about the poverty, about the careerism, about the social corruption yet still he found unique, authentic art experiences and people to counter every phony, gentrified moment he came into contact with. Dalachinsky was an original, a term that is getting harder and harder to employ as MFA programs pour out people who believe art is a profession and to whom artistic lineage is meaningless. Having spent years in silent appreciation and study; a protege in the presence of the giants who inspired him: Tuli Kupferberg, Gregory Corso, Ira Cohen, Marty Matz, Harry Smith. Dalachinsky knew how to nurture others more generously than he had been nurtured; younger poets but also younger listeners. Dalachinsky gave freely what had not always been given to him. He understood well that it takes years to grow in art. Here he was tender, gentle, kind but also ruthless, a pruner of mediocrity, of pretentiousness, of bullshit.

Dalachinsky was an angry young poet who became an angry young poet in an older angry poet’s body. When someone described an artist with the adjective “amazing” Dalachinsky asked, “Do you use that adjective, “amazing” a lot? Do you really know a lot of artists who are actually amazing?” She said she never used the word amazing again.

Dalachinsky was blessed with a poet’s death. Dalachinsky died holding a winning hand. He died leaving behind a shitload of work. The day he died, he heard live music he revered. He was at a reading in another far flung location. He read his work. He was with his beloved Yuko Otumo. He was surrounded by young friends. He didn’t suffer. He was not compromised. He got a huge obit in the Times. It was the ending he would have been too modest to ask for.

Loren Connors

Steve could go further with a breath of words than anyone I’ve ever known. He didn’t put any limits on his voice. Sometimes when we were playing, I could hear him hyperventilating. There were times when I thought he had gone too far and would pass out, but he never did.

Whenever I was in the audience at a performance, he would come over and sit with me, and within minutes I’d be laughing. Can you imagine two old guys showing each other their bad teeth and their missing spaces? The last time I saw him, he offered me a handful of jelly beans. He said the green ones are the best.

Now, every time I look at my guitar bag, a sadness touches me.

A class poet, a musician. Yeah, people you love go. That’s all I can say.

George Grella

I edited Steve Dalachinsky's “Outtakes” columns for the last six years, a small portion out of both our lives that always felt enormous to me. It still does.

Editing Steve's copy—lots of eccentric punctuation—was one thing, getting to know him was different; real and personal. We first laid eyes on each other and shook hands at Judson Church during the 2014 NYC Winter Jazzfest. That set the precedent for the experience so many had with Steve, bumping into him at one jazz show after another. In a city that still has more than a handful of jazz venues, that seemed impossible.

Best of all was his regular appearances on our music section podcast, when it was still ongoing. He'd come on at the end, after all the guests had finished—it was a fun game to introduce him to someone he didn’t know—and shoot the shit with myself and Marshall Yarbrough, who was assistant editor at the time. Then he would read some poems, and that always stopped us in our tracks.

Those special moments had to come to an end, though. Our host moved our recording session start to 9am, and as Steve said, "forget about it, I don't get out of bed before 11." No problem Steve, you deserve the rest.

Janet Hamill

I don’t know just when and where Steve and I first met. It was a gradual coming together of kindred spirits over a period of about ten years. Whenever I came down to the city, it seemed that Steve and Yuko were at every reading I attended or performed. We just kept seeing each other at events, and somehow at some point we began to acknowledge each other. I was always delighted to see him, smiling at the sight of him.  I sensed the heart of a great Borscht Belt comedian beneath the cool downtown exterior. We just kept seeing each other, until one day, voila, we were friends.

I think we saw each other as kindred spirits, someone who loved art, poetry in particular, for what used to be the right reasons, someone who threw themselves into it heart and soul, a fellow outsider who did it for the love of it, someone from a class other than upper middle, who had to work for everything, who’d seen defeat and enough disappointment to cause blindness. Amazingly, I lived the last 15 of my 30 years in New York on Van Dam St., a block away from Steve and Yuko on Spring.  In all that time we never became acquainted.  I guess it wasn’t time.

In the short time I had the pleasure to call Steve my friend, one of my greatest pleasures came when he asked me to review his last collection—Where Bight and Day Become One: the French Poems /A selection 1983–2017—for ABR. It was so inspiring to spend that much time with Steve’s work, to really get inside his head. The work is so good, it made me want to write. Saying that, I think, is the highest compliment one writer can pay another.

I last saw Steve and Yuko on a Friday morning in early August. I’d come down the night before to participate in a group reading at the Parkside for great weather for Media’s new anthology. Steve and Yuko were there. I wanted to see more of them before I headed up to my little hotel in Chelsea, so we agreed to have breakfast in the morning—a real sacrifice for Steve who never rises before 11 A.M. I met them before nine outside their building on Spring, and we walked to a diner on Varick. We sat outside, which was nice, but it was noisy and dusty, with massive construction going on right across the street just north of the Holland Tunnel entrance. We sat for almost three hours, kindred spirits, bitching and moaning about the NYC mecca of our youth. The place that drew us and thousands like us. A place with cheap rents, ready jobs, friends and lovers. A place where you could discover yourself in the vast artistic community south of 14th St. We sat for almost three hours watching our beloved city being chipped away at, disappearing.

Steve Dalachinsky and Irving Stone, March 9, 1996. Photo © Alan Nahigian.

Charles Bernstein

Steve & me &

Andy Lampert

were having this

raucous conversation

at the Rail

party a week

back. Steve was

sitting on Phong

& Nathlie’s fire

escape at the

edge of that

huge black


terrace, you

know, the kind

you feel

you’re just

about to fall









It was the end

of summer &

we gobbled

up the BBQ

dogs with relish

(ugh!). Steve

seemed tired, or

weary, maybe

a bit subdued.

We regaled him

about what folks


find funny &

what they don’t.

(Don’t get me

started!) Steve

taking it all

in with his


charm: three


tummlers, sharing

a moment of


in a world

(sooner than

you know)


or turns


Steve had

a grace that

refused grace—

& I think he

would’ve laughed

at the premature

reports of his

death after

his brain


in its prodigious

tracks while his

body kept on,

giving him a

last dose of

brute life.

I was just

getting to

know him.

—May his memory

be as much

of a Goddamn

blessing as his

presence always


Anna Moschovakis

The description of people as “fixtures” has always seemed to me wrong; fixtures are functional and can be swapped out, while the people given the name tend to be, truly, irreplaceable. But there’s something about the way they’re everywhere—either in one place, or in one kind of place, all the time—that makes it seem as if it will always be thus; their absence shocks, like the lights went out. Along with so many of Steve’s friends, I didn’t get to say goodbye. I don’t think I considered the need for goodbye, because the thing about Steve was that he was always there. It was impossible to walk into a room he and Yuko were in (and I walked into a lot of them over the years) and feel alone—even, or especially, a room that intimidated me or where I didn’t know a lot of people. For me, Steve was a walking welcome, the embodied conviction of a person’s right to be whoever they were, wherever they went. And he held that standard without the armor that sometimes goes with it. He was porous; he let what he saw and heard in, and he supported other people’s projects (to an extent I’m only now fully understanding) as if that kind of generosity were the most obvious thing in the world. He took me seriously—he and Yuko published an early chapbook of mine with their wonderful Sisyphus Press—and he kept things complicatedly light. Uncompromising goofball, open-hearted grouch, surrogate NYC dad to so many of us: he was an overtly remarkable poet and a covertly remarkable soul. I loved him, I miss him, and I can’t believe he’s gone. Everywhere is not the same without him.

Barry Schwabsky

Selective Memory

Space, such a fragile invention

to write it is like wrapping a tourniquet

but when all those sparrows engage in their filibuster

there’s nothing you can do but listen

their flowery haiku explain

what’s on the other side of death

is death: simple

The only halo is a half-note

and in a poem you once transcribed

each word rhymes with a truth

one person at a time can hear

With any consonant as their horizon

the vowels form a single very fine substance

pervading the entire universe

Some birds or musicians may pause for a moment of silence

recalling your rapt attention

an eye narrowed down on the feathered vibration of a trackless foreafter1

which might have meant only you could hear it

amidst the twittering that they use

to mask an ultrasonic conversation

it reminds you of a rain-soaked voice

you once started to think you’d be in love with

The rain falls only in your profligate heart

the dew gathers on your petals of enjoyment

the clouds that float wispily in someone’s sun-filled voice

slip quietly into the sea

like ink absorbed

into the pores of your fingers

  1. This word, as far as I know is Steve’s invention—found in “For Charles-Henri Ford— Another I Did Not Know,” Brooklyn Rail, April-May 2003. It was subsequently used by Clayton Eshleman, “The Magical Sadness of Omar Cáceres,” Fence, Spring/Summer 2004.

Matthew Shipp

Steve Dalachinsky reading with Matthew Shipp. Courtesy Matthew Shipp.

I am jazz pianist and composer Matthew Shipp—a long time friend of Steve Dalachinsky. There are no words to describe the void that Steve’s departure from the planet earth will create. Steve functioned on so many levels and had so much to give. I first started talking to him in the early ’80s when he was selling records and books on spring street. Just watching his interaction with various customers on the street was a trip until itself. What a fun time it was watching a real autodidactic intellectual who was a real New york street hustler also. Steve quickly became one of my closest friends and I cherish our talks on so many topics— / Henry Miller/Jack Kerouac/haiku/Genet/certain aspects of boxing/people who we both hate/his teen past of drugs and mental health issues and how that feeds into his creativity/money-both the having of it and the lack of it/etc etc. Since Steve is so connected to the jazz scene it goes beyond saying the bond we had there —he wrote many of the liner notes for my cds —and we did 1 cd together—Phenomena of interference. What was most striking to me was the book we did together “logos and language.” I was struck by Steve’s complete and utter natural grasp of the most abstruse mystical concepts. It is almost like Jack Kerouac in that no one would ever mistake him for a mystic but there are some of the most transcendent sentences of a mystical quality and feel spread out in his works. I say this as a composer who the backdrop for my work is a certain type of christian mysticism—and I swim in the world of mystics like Jacob Bohme—Meister Eckhart etc etc. Steve had an instinctive feel for ideas of this nature thou he was coming from a different place. Steve took in more of New York then any person I know whether it was the poetry scene, art scene, film scene and of course the music scene. Steve was New York in my mind. Wow, I am going to miss him.

Vincent Katz

Steve was always good vibes. Every time I went into a room feeling a little out of place, the second I saw Steve everything made sense again. He always had an incredibly open, warm-hearted embrace. A good omen feeling. I felt that we, along with all of Steve's other friends, were partners in some kind of crime that could eventually help heal the universe. His poetry flowed from his love of music, experimental jazz in particular.  He was one of the finest spoken-word collaborators, coaxing his voice not to sound like an instrument but rather to purr with a complementary sensuality. He was very sensual and at the same time low-key. He had nerve, but one never heard him bragging or vaunting himself, and I never heard him put anyone down. I first met Steve selling cassettes on Spring St., where, among others, I got a Bowie cassette from him. Aladdin Sane live? Steve was a very beautiful man. Not just morally but physically as well. I was always engaged by his beauty. I'll miss him a lot. All my love and warm embraces to Yuko Otomo, Steve's light and muse.

Steve Dalachinsky. Photo © Alan Nahigian.

language is an organism
(A poem read by Steve Dalachinsky, an excerpt from his last gig, Islip, NY)


bundle of information

parody of brains / residue / residuals

i am a survivor of language

host to language seeds

& social interaction

we are cohorts (the final)


 a new language of complex codes

   little inconsistencies

     heads / biologies

   we all don’t end up with the same language

      language makes us human / we all don’t end…UP

    language grows inside us…stimulus

 nice way to do things / establish an order / boring uncomplicated sentences

x amount of time for x amount of crime / tapped out of self within a neutral space

  an inf(l)ection / special modulations / finely marked / given / received

   @ the end of the pointing the dialect produced the color of one’s clothing

         & respect for one’s shirt

     pushing one’s link into a neutral space / producing co-reference

      lin(k)ed up & shot / this is when the storm happens

          when the new form is formed


   stimulus - nice ways to do things - establish an order -

     a nominal output of here-within

       natural  se(l)ection -

        a missing idea

  how our traits are passed down / how to throw an inheritance

  to bury an eco-system - destroy & reproduce our learning processes

   inferred genes / implanted communications excised from our brains

     emerging / submerging / extending the GAP

   exposing / describing the SIGNS > the turns within the system

 sorting the trees along the pathway / the highway / the trail that leads to MAN

       who goes no WHERE / which leads NO where

   like > time travelling within a 3D SpAcE..


Charles Bernstein

Charles Bernstein — In 2021, boundary 2 published Charles Bernstein: The Poetry of Idiomatic Insistences, edited by  Paul Bove, which collected interviews as well as essays on his work from an international perspective. Neeli Cherkovski reviewed his Near/Miss in the November 2020 Brooklyn Rail.  

Vincent Katz

Vincent Katz is a poet and translator whose most recent book of poetry is Broadway for Paul.

Anna Moschovakis

Anna Moschovakis is a writer, translator, and teacher, and a longtime member of Brooklyn-based publishing collective Ugly Duckling Presse.

Anselm Berrigan

Anselm Berrigan is the poetry editor for the Brooklyn Rail. He lives and grew up in the somewhat lower part of Manhattan.

Barry Schwabsky

Barry Schwabsky is art critic for The Nation.

Matvei Yankelevich

Matvei Yankelevich is a founding editor of Ugly Duckling Presse, and teaches at Columbia University's School of the Arts and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.

George Grella

George Grella is the Rail’s music editor.

Andrew Lampert

Andrew Lampert is an artist, archivist, teacher, and one-half of the creative consulting firm Chen & Lampert. Recent projects include co-editing the book TONY CONRAD: WRITINGS (2019, Primary Information), and co-writing the monthly column HARD TRUTHS for Art In America.

Mark Bloch

Mark Bloch is a writer, public speaker and pan-media artist from Ohio living in Manhattan since 1982. His archive of Mail/Network/Communication Art is part of the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library of New York University.

Neeli Cherkovski

Neeli Cherkovski’s recent poetry collections are hang onto the Yangtze River, and elegy for my beat generation. His biography of Charles Bukowski was recently published in a new edition by David Godine, and he is completing a new addition of his biography of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He is also working on a book of poetry profiles, multitudes and his memoir, hyper. He lives in San Francisco.

Yuko Otomo

Yuko Otomo is a visual artist & a bilingual writer of Japanese origin. She shared 40 years of mornings, days & nights with Steve Dalachinsky, love of her life.

Alan Nahigian

Alan Nahigian’s photography and illustrations have appeared in print ads, book covers, compact discs, postage stamps, newspapers, and magazines. As a Jazz photographer his work is featured in all of the major Jazz publications worldwide. Over sixty of his medical illustrations are presented in the advanced medical textbook, “Mastering Revision Rhinoplasty.” His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the country, including the Delaware Art Museum, Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, The Society of Illustrators, and a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Smithsonian. He has written about film and music for various publications and books, worked as an art director, booking agent, music producer, and has completed two animated film shorts.

William Parker

William Parker is a musician. He has created his own work in composition and improvisation music since 1971 as well as playing with Milford Graves, Cecil Taylor, Bill Dixon, Don Cherry, David S. Ware, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton among others.

Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade is a poet, writer and theatre, and performance maker. She debuted at 1968 at 18 in NY’s seminal, queer, rock and roll, political theatre The Playhouse of The Ridiculous, at 19 she was a Warhol Superstar. She occupies a rare position in the American avant garde and is an international icon of artistic resistance.

Loren Connors

Loren Connors has improvised and composed original guitar music for over four decades. His music embraces the aesthetics of blues, Irish airs, blues-based rock, and other genres while letting go of rigid forms.

Matthew Shipp

Pianist/composer Matthew Shipp was born in wilmington delaware on dec 7,1960?moved to new york in 1984 and became one of the leading figures in modern jazz. He is very prolific and has recorded many albums in many settings .


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

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