Philip Dacey Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Philip Dacey has coedited two anthologies, the influential Strong Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Forms (1986) with David Jauss and I Love You All Day, It Is That Simple (1970) with Gerald M. Knoll. In his first years at Southwest State University, from 1971 to 1976, he edited the literary journal Crazy Horse, in 1974 contributing an interview with Robert Wilbur that would influence his own writing. In addition to expressing his fascination with Walt Whitman in his own poetry, Dacey explored the poet’s life and character in a play in the first issue of Mickle Street Review, published in 1979 by the Walt Whitman House Association.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Philip Dacey’s major career awards include a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1961), the New York YM-YWHA Poetry Center Discovery Award (1974), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1975 and 1980), two Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowships (1975 and 1983), a Bush Foundation Fellowship (1977), the Loft-McKnight Fellowship (1984), and a Fulbright lectureship in Yugoslavia (1988).

Dacey began winning awards for his poetry early in his career. Honors include the Yankee Poetry Prize in 1968, the Poet and Critic Prize in 1969, and the Borestone Mountain Poetry Award in 1974. He took first prize in the G. M. Hopkins Memorial Sonnet Competition in 1977 and first prizes in poetry awarded by the literary magazines Prairie Schooner and Kansas Quarterly in 1977 and 1980, respectively. Dacey won Pushcart Prizes in 1977 and 1982. He also received the Edwin Ford Piper Award from the University of Iowa Press in 1990, the Carolyn Kizer Poetry Prize from Poetry Northwest in 1991, and the Flyway Literary Award for Poetry from Iowa State University in 1997. He won the Peace Corps Writers Poetry Award in 2000 for The Deathbed Playboy, the International Merit Award from Atlanta Review in 2003 for “From the Front,” and the $1000 Turning Point Prize from WordTech Communications, Cincinnati, in 2004 for The Mystery of Max Schmitt.

Dacey’s poem “The Birthday” was set to music by David Sampson and performed at Carnegie-Mellon Institute in 1982. His long poem “The Musician” was set to music by Elizabeth Alexander for the American Master Chorale and received its debut performance in 1994 with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra at the First Congregational Church of Madison. The Southwest Minnesota Orchestra and Chorus in 2003 performed his poem “Ear Abounding,” arranged by Robert Whitcomb.

Dacey played an important role in the New Formalism movement in American poetry. His interview with Wilbur, the poet considered central to the revival of formalism in American poetry, and the anthology Strong Measures helped solidify the movement.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Caplan, David. “In That Thicket of Bitter Roots.” Virginia Quarterly Review 80, no. 4 (Fall, 2004): 115-134. An essay on the renewed interest in metrical verse being displayed by American poets, including Dacey.

Folsom, Ed. “Philip Dacey on Whitman: An Interview and Four New Poems.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 19, no. 2 (Summer, 2001): 40-51. An exploration of Dacey’s continuing fascination with Walt Whitman.

Hedin, Robert, ed. Where One Voice Ends Another Begins: One Hundred Fifty Years of Minnesota Poetry. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2007. This anthology gives a place of prominence to Dacey, who exerted considerable influence in Minnesota poetry during the last third of the twentieth century.

McPhillips, Robert. The New Formalism: A Critical Introduction. Rev. ed. Cincinnati: WordTech Communications, 2005. An overview of and introduction to the movement Dacey helped create.

Stitt, Peter. “The Necessary Poem.” Ohio Review 19, no. 2 (Spring/Summer, 1978): 101-112. Stitt’s examination of Dacey’s poetry is valuable for its discussion of tonal consistency. While appreciative of the poet’s strengths, he takes an uncompromising look at Dacey’s failures of voice.

Stuart, Dabney. “Sex and Violence.” Tar River Poetry 26, no. 2 (Spring, 1987): 46-53. Stuart explores Dacey’s concern with sexuality as a topic, especially in reference to the poems of The Man with Red Suspenders.

Wallace, Ronald. “An Air a Wound Sings.” Chowder Review 9 (1977): 93-94. Wallace’s examination of Dacey’s earlier work, couched in entirely positive terms, is useful for its assessment of Dacey’s affirmative and celebratory approach.

Wilbur, Richard. Interview by Philip Dacey. In Conversations with Richard Wilbur, edited by William Butts. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990. The Crazy Horse interview of Wilbur, conducted in 1974 and included in this collection, proved to be influential in Dacey’s own career.