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A Tribute to Aleksey Dayen

Stanley H. Barkan
Terry Clarke
John Dotson

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Read Aleksey Dayen's Poetry

    In Memoriam

    Stanley H. Barkan

    Like Dylan Thomas, who presaged that he would never live to be 40, and didn't, died at 39, Aleksey Dayen predicted that he wouldn’t live very long, and didn’t; he died at age 34[1], even younger than Dylan.
        I met Aleksey about eight years ago. He was a young man dedicated to creative work. He impressed me with his fierce devotion to poetry and his love of all kinds of writing, art, photography, especially by his fellow Russians.
        We worked together on many Russian, American, and other language/cultural/national projects. First and foremost was his own poetry, which he initially wrote only in Russian. I helped him translate into English and to find publications for his work, like Lips, edited by Laura Boss, PLR edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Long Island Sounds edited by Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan, The Seventh Quarry edited by Peter Thabit Jones, and Shabdaguchha edited by Hassanal Abdullah.
        We worked on many literary arts projects together. He translated into Russian works by Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Stanley Kunitz, Gregory Rabassa, and Dylan Thomas. Together we crossed over many linguistic/cultural borders: Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Italian, Korean, Persian, Sicilian, Spanish, and Welsh. He unstintingly helped my small press, Cross-Cultural Communications, by providing Russian friends’ venues, like the Donnell and Mid-Manhattan Libraries, and the Russian Samovar, as well as Russian magazines for CCC poets. As publisher of CCC, I provided editing and publications, including several co-translations of his Russian poet friends, as well as his translations into Russian in bilingual chapbooks: M. L. Liebler’s The Fragmant Benediction of Life and A. D. Winans’ The Wrong Side of Town, and my own Crossings. Also a chapbook of his poems in English, Absinthe Then Love, and a full book influenced by the No!Art movement, No!Love.
        All in all, he was a legal interpreter, a translator, a novelist, a journalist, a photographer, a sometime mixed-media artist, but most of all a poet—a poet of the bars and the alleyways and the asphalts of New York City, one who had much in common with the Beats. And he was an organizer of Russian cultural activities, being, in effect, the central clearing place for Russian writers and artists in America, especially in New York. Any Russian writer of recent vintage was welcomed and helped by Aleksey; in a way, he was their nexus on the American literary scene.
        This young man, who at age 16 came out of the Ukrainian Steppes making his way to America to learn its ways of the bar and the streets, who fell in love too many times, who looked into the belly of the beast and yet was not damaged in his soul by what he saw and experienced there (though the same can’t be said of how he was affected physically). He remained pure in spirit and intent. His poetry pierced through to the inner heart’s core. Anyone who heard him read in Russian was captivated by him. Anyone who was graced by his friendship—fiercely loyal, capable of going to great extremes of self-sacrifice—was privileged indeed.
        Although he wrote in Russian and sometimes, later in English, he ultimately rejected being called “A Russian poet.” He said, “I’m a Jew from Eastern Europe!” He was a young man who came out of the Steppes of Ukraine, as just a boy, a boy from Kiev. He kept searching for love, had numerous girlfriends—but always felt, as he wrote in No!Love, that he didn’t find it, that he was unloved. Yet, as condolences poured in from all over the worlds, at his Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn, funeral, with very short notice, about 100 friends and family came, half traveled in a long chain of cars to the cemetery in Queens, to his gravesite, and more came to his tribute dinner in Brighton Beach. Three weeks later, Russian friends and family and fiancé Jeanine Allen, his “wife,” who truly loved and cared for him, gathered at a tribute to his poetry in a Russian bookstore in Manhattan, and others plan another bilingual tribute in January. Despite prior No!Love feelings, he was so much loved.
        Aleksey Dayen died on November 20, his too big heart finally failing after a short but richly creative life, dying sooner than even he expected.
        He was one of a kind, absolutely unique. We will miss him. When comes such another?

    Terry Clarke

    The Boy From Kiev

    (for Aleksey Dayen)

    Kiev to Coney Island
    is a long way to go
    political refugees
    dream in neon, vodka and snow
    see paradise at f.22
    hear surf guitars at dawn
    Prospero said life's wrapped in sleep
    now let the sleepy boy yawn

    At the end of the life
    at the end of the day
    my brother the prince
    will just slip away
    footprints in the sand
    from Kiev to Coney Island Avenue

    Kiev to Coney Island
    where flowers die in the trash
    ghost radio plays Elvis
    the liquor store takes cash
    I've got a guitar
    I've got a funeral suit
    I'll kick the shit out of the blues
    won't let the bastards take root

    Kiev to Coney Island
    leather jacket packet of smokes
    you fill in the spaces
    with what an image evokes
    Russian jazz and blues
    Irish girl behind the door
    you think that you can choose
    but truth always wipes the floor

    John Dotson

    (for Aleksey Dayen)

    The Full Moon Rose

    When a given poet dies
    one solemn dancing flame burns
    oddly enough just a bit more brightly
    no matter what the struggle was
    no matter the mistakes or
    passages missing outright
    these are subtended somehow
    in this Finality so often alluded to
    some elusive closure long foreseen here
    as a set of stanzas ultimately
    bearing forth such sublime images that
    through the precise profiles of their lacking
    emerge in the end exposed publicly

    * * *

    Each poet is thus responsible
    for writing his or her own
    farewell in each and every poem
    he or she ever renders
    therefore is it a most unkind
    mostly ungenerous art indeed
    because of that key part

    * * *

    A heartbeat gets tangled up
    in a terminal rhyme scheme
    a candle in the window
    where the moon rose
    is completely forgotten
    until mid-morning

    1Elsewhere, Aleksey Dayen's Page and Contemporary Rassian Poets Database, it shows that he died at the age of 38.

Poetry in English ||Poetry in Bengali ||Poetry in Translation ||A Tribute to Aleksey Dayen ||Theory After Theory ||Book Review
Poetry Dialogue ||To the Editor ||Contributors' Bio

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah