Philip Dacey spent his early years in Missouri and graduated from St. Louis University in 1961. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching high school in eastern Nigeria from 1963 to 1965. He married Florence Chard in 1963. The marriage, which ended in 1986, produced two sons and one daughter. After his Peace Corps experience, Dacey served as an instructor at Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1966, and earned his M.A. in 1967 from Stanford University. He then returned to St. Louis to serve as an instructor in English at the University of Missouri until 1968. In 1970, he joined the faculty of the department of English at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota, and served jointly as professor of English and coordinator of creative writing through 1990. One of his most significant publications while at Southwest State University was an interview with poet Wilbur, published in the fall, 1974, issue of Crazy Horse. Wilbur’s ideas about traditional poetics would heavily influence Dacey’s eventual turn toward poetic formalism.
Dacey served as distinguished poet-in-residence at Wichita State University in 1985 and was awarded residencies by the Corporation of Yaddo and the Ragdale Foundation, also in the 1980’s. In 2003, he served as Eddice B. Barber Visiting Writer at Minnesota State University at Mankato.
Long active in arts organizations, Dacey was founder and director of the Minnesota Writers’ Festival in 1978, and founder and director in 1986 and 1989 of the Marshall Festivals. He served as member of the arts review board for the Minnesota School and Resource Center for the Arts in 1988. In December, 2004, he and his partner, Alixa Doom, moved from Minnesota to New York’s Upper West Side.
Dacey has given numerous readings from his own works, not only in the United States but also in Ireland, Yugoslavia, and Mexico. In 1992, he founded the performance trio Strong Measures with his sons, Emmett and Austin, combining poetry and music.