If you find yourself at an avant-garde jazz concert and poet Steve Dalachinsky is not in the audience, you probably have the wrong address. An unparalleled jazz aficionado, Dalachinsky has soaked in enough of the music to attempt the impossible: to create the same indescribable, musical feeling through words.
But with distinct influences of Dada and Surrealism, a Beatnik sensibility, and a dry sense of humor, Dalachinsky really does not like to be branded as a jazz poet. Or branded in any way for that matter, because, as with real, experimental jazz, descriptions grow stale the minute they are formulated, left far behind the racing, morphing voice. As Nietzsche said, things are dead once you’re able to say them.
In Dalachinsky’s poetry, however, thought flows like a saxophone melody: alive and unhindered, suggestive rather than descriptive, fragmented, and held together with a musical sort of logic.
Dalachinsky’s books include the PEN Oakland National Book Award winner “The Final Nite” (Ugly Duckling Presse), as well as numerous other publications, chapbooks, and liner notes for experimental jazz recordings. His 1999 CD, Incomplete Directions (Knitting Factory Records) features a collection of original poetry read in collaboration with musicians such as William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Vernon Reid (Living Color). Among his recent recordings is “Phenomena of Interference,” (Hopscotch Records 2005), a collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp.
On June 30, Dalachinsky will be joining me for a performance on the roof of the Educational Alliance on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
In the meantime, here are two of Dalachinsky’s recent poems:
the synagogue in st. sebastian’s square
photographs of pieces
of close ups
horizontal memories / drinking tea
hands running wild away from secondary thwack
sebaceous schooner scuttle atop
stone upon a dead black sea
awake from pillows of bitter salt
a secular sulker
mosaics of moses
pharoah’s daughter finds bones to pick
dimpled flesh aloose in the bulrushes
cemetery of darkcloth where ram stood
& horn blew
crystal off shore caught in rigor
rigger caught in mast ropes
my people leave the hull & wander
upward toward the statue
& other false idols
pyramids not built in a day
plague a pully we from bully passed over
growing up a deliverer
never to enter a land of harsh promises
crooked kabal carved in every nite
betrayal of trials & caved in broken columns
contrariwise clockworks blue lady candle burn
cash being able to chemicollage electric self enslavement
never having been sold in the market
the burning bush burning still
i am my only son.
dalachinsky from 2 fragments and improv 5/15/10
The First Cemetery of Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue (1656-1833 )
inside chinatown’s thigh
near the edge of st. james’ cross
by oliver street
& described as “OUTSIDE the CITY”
lies a dark acre of nameless tombstones
a sweet & sacrilegious monument to judaism
consecrated in 1656
cornered by brick
& bridged by steel & clay
the ashes of ashes the dust of dust on this cold & dismal ash wednesday.
a triangle of empty benches
the prickly wild berry trees
lining the black wrought iron
some secret inside the tombs
the vacant geometric forms
so worn & final resting “en un espacio pequeno y solemne
para Shearith Israel”
a remnant of a prayer for the souls
of the wandering dead
who now repose
in god’s new world.
steve dalachinsky nyc 3/4/81=20