A Superintendent’s Eyes by Steve Dalachinsky — review by Mark McCawley

A Superintendent’s Eyes

by Steve Dalachinsky


review by Mark McCawley

A Superintendent's EyesA Superintendent’s Eyes
by Steve Dalachinsky (Author), Arthur Kaye (Illustrator)
Revised and Expanded Second Edition
Unbearable Books/Autonomedia (July 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1570272727
ISBN-13: 978-1570272721
$13.61 US pbk | $11.33 CDN pbk | £10.99 UK pbk
180 pages, 5″ x 7.25″, Poetry
photographs by Arthur Kaye

“you fine poets who live among universities
you glorious academicians
can you see civilization in your own backyards
in the ethnic eyes of the shopkeeper
buried in one neighborhood forever
dryly breathing
under a petrified cross?

the years have changed
but the times have not.”

~Steve Dalachinsky, A Superintendent’s Eyes #1, “from the basement of the academy”, p.13
Reading the ninety-two “notes, letters, rants, poems, observations” (Dalachinsky, p.11) that make up A Superintendent’s Eyes, I am reminded of the poem “Rooming House” by the late Canadian People’s Poet, Milton Acorn: “Somebody’s retching/ down the hall, it/ goes on for hours/ every day./ Fine background music/for a poem!” (Acorn, I’ve Tasted My Blood: Poems 1956 to 1968, p.18) In Acorn’s poem the poet figures he won’t need his own alarm clock thinking all his neighbor’s alarms will wake him the following morning for work. Of course, he sleeps in and is late for work: everyone in the rooming house is on welfare. It was exactly Acorn’s keen sensitivity towards those on the lowest end of the economic spectrum — urban blue collar workers, the economically as well as socially disenfranchised — that garnered him the nickname The People’s Poet by his peers. Steve Dalachinsky could very well be bestowed a similar title with the publication of A Superintendent’s Eyes.

Originally published in 2000 by Rich Martin’s Hozomeen Press (who now currently runs the Telegraph Recording Company) in a first limited edition of 300 copies, it emphasizes the importance and influence of micro and small press publishing, particularly of writers and poets who pursue their craft outside the literary mainstream. During the period in which the Hozomeen Press imprint was active, Martin published such luminaries as Lee Ranaldo, Denis Mahoney, Ron Whitehead, Black Pig Liberation Front and, of course, Steve Dalachinsky.

In 2013, a revised and expanded second edition of A Superintendent’s Eyes was published by Autonomedia / Unbearable Books with accompanying photographs by Arthur Kaye.

Steve Dalachinsky includes an additional fifty pieces, both old and new, to this expanded and revised edition, essentially doubling the book in size, in scope, and dimension while standing allegorically upon the caryatids of the first edition.

“This particular book…contained prose, poetry, prose poetry, the Japanese form of haibun which combines prose and haiku and some of what Kerouac would call “prosody.” The main inspiration for that and this newly expanded edition was my job as superintendent of my building and all the craziness and chores that it entailed. The concept expanded to incorporate older pieces from the 60s and in this newer, larger version, recent pieces which seem relevant to the work.”

Interview With PEN Award Winner, Steve Dalachinsky – Lisa Chau 07/06/2013

Incorporating elements such as autobiography, diary, essay, short story, monologue and journal, the poems that make up A Superintendent’s Eyes are as varied as the apartments and tenants which populated the Spring Street apartment building in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood during the time that Dalachinsky was its superintendent.
the drum & bass pound upward thru the floor
from the shoe store below
they permeate every pore of my apt.
as well as every pore of my skin
even as i shower

morning til night
drum & bass
& shoes

~Steve Dalachinsky, A Superintendent’s Eyes #46, “lumber”, p.80
From burnt out light bulbs to broken plumbing and tenant complaints to peculiar and addicted tenants, themselves, to cleaning up garbage scattered across the front stoop to removing homeless squatters from the doorway, Dalachinsky’s superintendent is never at a loss for chores to do which becomes excellent fodder for the pieces in A Superintendent’s Eyes. Dalachinsky’s eyes see everything. Nothing is too minor, too ordinary, too everyday to escape his witness.

     my house is being destroyed. they started to build my
new bathroom. i’ve had a tub in the kitchen & toilet in the
hall for years. finally, after no pay, this job is paying off. i get
a toilet inside. a big wide shower to boot.

              it’s the second day & the workmen have only put in
an hour. now they’re gone.

     it’s snowing. lunch break? where the hell did they go? my
wife’s in japan. she’ll be back in a month. i hope they’ll be
done by then. i hope they’ll be back by then, if they
ever come back. will they ever come back?

~Steve Dalachinsky, A Superintendent’s Eyes #50, “toilet”, p.87
In one of Dalachinsky’s more surreal pieces, A Superintendent’s Eyes #40, “dream – the time tuner”, the poem’s narrator dreams that he is in the 60s BBC cult show The Prisoner. This piece will also appear as one of the contributions to Rabbit Ears: TV Poems edited by Joel Allegretti (NYQ Books, 2015), the first anthology of poetry about TV.
Steve Dalachinsky – A Superintendent’s Eyes #40, “dream – the time tuner”, recording by Tate Swindell

Steve Dalachinsky’s A Superintendent’s Eyes, along with Arthur Kaye’s nearly documentary-style photographs, function as a unique poetic microcosm of Manhattan at the latter part of the 20th Century. These poems and images are both witness and testament to a time and place in New York City which largely exists now only in the expanded and revised pages of this evocative, often hilarious, and at times melancholy book.

Photo Copyright © 2013 Arthur Kaye

Photo Copyright © 2013 Arthur Kaye

Steve Dalachinsky is a legendary New York downtown poet. He is active in the Free jazz scene. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. He has been writing poetry for many years and has worked with such musicians as William Parker, Susie Ibarra, Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Mat Maneri, Federico Ughi, Rob Brown, Tim Barnes and Jim O’Rourke. He has appeared at most of the Vision Festivals, an Avant-jazz festival involving many of these musicians. He also appears often at the Knitting Factory, a unique live music club in Tribeca. Recent books include The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes From A Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006 (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006), a compendium of poetry written while watching saxophonist Charles Gayle perform throughout New York City in that time period, and the revised and expanded second edition of A Superintendent’s Eyes (Unbearable Books/Autonomedia, 2013). Other publications include Trial and Error in Paris from Loudmouth Collective Press and Quicksand from Isis Press. His spoken word albums include Incomplete Directions, I thought it was the end of the world then the end of the world happened again with Federico Ughi, and Phenomena of Interference with Matthew Shipp. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife, painter and poet Yuko Otomo.

Photo Copyright © 2015 Arthur Kaye

Photo Copyright © 2015 Arthur Kaye

Arthur Kaye was a liar and a thief so he decided to turn to the arts. He shoots photos on the street and elsewhere, steals the faces of people and make up stories about them. Along the way, he shelved books in the stacks of the NY Public Library and the basement of the Strand Bookstore, became a headhunter, and now he’s a photo-sniper. Sometimes he even writes, mostly written longhand, in composition notebooks, during the morning commute by rail into NYC. He views street photography and writing as forms of performance art. If you see him, watch him, and maybe he’ll catch a photo of you looking at him taking a photo of you. You can find his blog, ‘what’s in a word?’ HERE.

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