I recently learned the sad news that Phil Dacey (Nigeria 1963-65) died in Minneapolis on July 7, 2016, at age 77, after a nearly two-year struggle with acute leukemia. Phil won the Peace Corps Writers Poetry Award in 2000 for his collection, The Deathbed Playboy. He also won three Pushcart Prizes and the Discovery Award from the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA.
Phil was the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson fellowship from Stanford University as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, and the Loft-McKnight Foundation. He served as poet- or writer-in-residence at Wichita State University, the University of Idaho, and Minnesota State University at Mankato. While teaching at Southwest State Minnesota University, Dacey founded the Marshall Festivals, the Minnesota Writers’ Festival, and the International Film Series. He lived in Minneapolis until his death.
Over the years, Phil published more than a dozen books of poetry, including Church of the Adagio (2014), Gimme Five (2013), Mosquito Operas: New and Selected Short Poems (2010), The New York Postcard Sonnets: A Midwesterner Moves to Manhattan (2007), What’s Empty Weighs the Most: 24 Sonnets (1997) The Mystery of Max Schmitt: Poems on the Life and Work of Thomas Eakins (2004), The Deathbed Playboy (1999), The Paramour of the Moving Air (1999), Night Shift at the Crucifix Factory (1991), and many chapbooks. His most recent book of poems The Ice-Cream Vigils: Last Poems will be published by Red Dragonfly Press later this year.
Philip Dacey was raised in St. Louis and earned his BA from St. Louis University, an MA from Stanford, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He served in Nigeria with his then-wife, Florence Chard Dacey, who is also a poet.
Phil and I were undergraduates together at Saint Louis University and members of the University’s famous Writers Institute. Both of us were students of the legendary Dr. Albert Montesi.
Over the years I was in touch with Phil, and saw him during the eight years he lived in Manhattan before returning to Minnesota to live on Lake Calhoun with his long-time partner, the poet Alixa Doom. Philip is survived by his three children, Emmett, Austin, and Fay. Per Philip’s wishes, there will be no funeral service, but readings from a forthcoming book will serve as memorials.
In one of our last conversations, we were talking about out Peace Corps days, in Ethiopia and Nigeria, and Phil commented at one point, “You know, I can still recall the sound of the rain in the early morning on the tin roof of our house in Africa, even after all these years.”
Memories linger. And so do memories of Phil and his poetry.