dennis daly

Happy Hour at the All-Souls Lounge by Dennis Daly

all souls
Happy Hour at the All-Souls Lounge 
Vivid sparks shoot out everywhere,
The ethereal smithy slams
Down his fundamental hammer
As I sip my jar of whiskey
And nod to that sweat-veiled forger
Of well-oiled Damascus steel,
A quickening sword telecast.
Moving toward me, the barkeep smirks
Then smiles his all-knowing welcome.
I’m early and unrepentant.
From spatial mist others drift in,
Fired metal moved aside with tongs.
A hilt with pommel now fashioned
While draft beers or iced drinks are poured,
Pockets sapped of greenbacks and coins.
Some talk on tomorrow’s subjects,
Some keep their peace, their weighted hearts
Self-contained, losing harsh detail.
The fine file and whetstone applied
To blade’s edge, creation’s prelude.
Dennis Daly has published nine books of poetry and poetic translations. He has written reviews for literary journals and newspapers. A new book entitled Odd Man Out has been accepted by Madhat Press and is due out by fall 2023. Please see his blogsite at


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Review by Zvi A. Sesling
Previously I did a review of a Dennis Daly book of poetry in which I stated that he “has been there, done that…” In Custom House Daly takes readers to ancient foreign lands, places of the heart and love-hate relationship with the work place.
In his latest poetic offering, Sentinel, Daly out does himself with mysterious poems that convince you he has an insider’s knowledge of the espionage game as played by the likes of the CIA and NSA, maybe even the FBI and any other three letter abbreviations you can think of. He does all this in the style of Wallace Stevens, itself not an easy accomplishment.
The poem “Secrets” sets the stage of the dark and dangerous with an opening line that reminds me of the old radio program “The Shadow,” which began with the oft quoted
“Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men…”
Channels that lead nowhere, nondescript
Dead ends that greet you like vacant smiles,
Yet there are caches of grim jewels
Hidden somewhere. A caution wire tripped
Sets off the venal security
Alerting them to tell-all voices.
Silence the inevitable key
To cults that form the veiled basis
Of earthly power. The living runes
Chiseled onto this fantastic world
Redolent of summer afternoons,
The ammunition spent, flag unfurled.
This is how some reach their bitter end.
They sieve out quiet confidences
To spidery contenders, misspend
The rest on red win and circuses.
Is this a childhood action movie, perhaps a serial? Could it be 007 in action? Jason Bourne on the loose? What it is not is a dream, and Daly lets you know that not all spies can keep their secrets, and often spending on drinks and pleasures leads to their demise.
In “Patterns” Daly deals another dark and mysterious poem for the reader to try and interpret:
The wave and the trough, the unmade man
Takes his turn in the froth-fingered air,
The usual briskness of elsewhere.
Then back again, at least that’s the plan
Of sensible pretense, not reckless.
Not at all. Closing the hatch on sturm
And drang, he nods to all, reaffirms
Solidity and anxiousness
And doubt that public certainty births.
He rehearses the routine. Danger,
So predicable, looms. He’ll wager
Life and limb. His stubborn will unearths.
Fangs and feral claws. The wait not long
As he prepared for the frantic day
When fractal stress and those patterns may,
Seen from afar, go wrong, very wrong.
The man of duty performs his task, he is, perhaps, too close to see the impending results while his superiors, his handlers can see the coming end, the losses he will suffer, maybe even his life.
If you are not convinced of the darkness or the espionage, sink into “Agents of Influence” which incorporates some of the best thriller writing into Daly’s bag of poetics. All of pure noir.
One by one the rocks are chiseled out,
Disassembled, a quick erasure
Of foundation. The shake of structure
Noticeable. As mildews of doubt
Climb tapestries, traitors praise new gods,
The future guards of our guided wills.
Frescoes peel, plaster crumbles, fulfills
years of prediction, multiple frauds.
Steeples, dwarfed now, but still extend up
Toward the unresistant stratosphere.
Demagogues assign fault. The frontier
Forts abandoned, rabble envelope
Our cities, poison our sweetest wells.
Men escape through the mountain passes
Or freeze where they fall. The blown bridges
Mapped months ago. Devolution sells.
You may not find this the easiest book of poetry to read. Perhaps you will read a number of these poems two or three times and possibly reach a different conclusion each time. But one thing is for sure,Sentinel is well worth the effort because your mind will compare it to thriller novels, movies, television shows. In the end you will simply marvel at Dennis Daly’s ability to incorporate espionage into a poetic form– leaving you wanting more dark shadows and mysterious meanings. You will be pondering long after you have finished reading a poem or the book. Highly recommended.

You can check out the book here:

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016)
Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011)
King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Press, 2010)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8
This review first published at the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Church of the Adagio by Philip Dacey

Stephanie Dickinson advised us that the Poet Philip Dacey passed away on July 7th. You can learn more about the poet by visiting his website In his memory we are posting 3 reviews of his books first published at The Fox Chase Review.


Review by Dennis Daly 

I don’t know about you, but lately life’s gales seem to gust past me toward the thin-lipped, unforgiving horizon. I’m always looking for that bloody slow button. Philip Dacey offers relief by setting up his Church of the Adagio in the artificial spaces that creativity engenders. His poetic moments linger until they don’t. Time stops and starts as anticipation surges through the connecting nerves as you climb over the profane and the sacred stanzas, easing into and then merging with the lines. It’s damn reassuring. He makes it so.
In Llama Days, a serendipitous poem plotted out in formal verse, Dacey considers the many facets of wonder encompassed in a brief meeting of unintroduced species, a parsed parley, which changes the very nature of time twice: first, the convocation itself suspends the protagonist’s disbelief, and second, the poem, itself emerges out of artistic (read daydream) time. Here’s the moment of decision in the heart of the poem,
But llama? I’d never noticed one before,
though no doubt my surprise at seeing him
was matched by his at seeing me—or more
then matched, he being lost, freedom become
a burden twice as bad as any bars,
so much so panic struck and he turned
back, high-stepping it onto the road,
two-laned, tarred, and I saw the headline,
“Llama killed by truck.”
Dropping the rake, I raced to rescue him,
Who now stood frozen, straddling the centerline…
Attempts at political poems crash and burn all the time. The more self-righteous the poet the better the chance of failure. True believers rarely produce first rate art. There are exceptions however. Dacey’s poem News of the Day, for instance, takes three historical examples of man’s inhumanity to man, cedes some freedom to formalist techniques, slowing down a river of natural anger, and creates three hardened jewel-like pieces. He sets his inspired words into two rondels and a sonnet. The Hiroshima rondel is beyond exceptional. The last stanza burns into you,
The room reshaped itself around me,
night disguised itself as day, and words,
undone, turned ash. Gone blind by ecstasy
of sight, my eyes read fire. When spines
began to run, I turned the page and fell
into the sun.
Another curiosity in this book is the way Dacey moves almost seamlessly from formal poetry of the strictest type ( rondels, villanelles, sestinas)  into languid free verse and then back into formality. The relaxed prosy narrative of Dacey’s free verse poem White Trash lures you into an ongoing joke with very serious undertones. The poet opens his piece matter-of-factly,
When middle-class blacks
moved into my family’s neighborhood
in St. Louis in the Fifties
and we and all our neighbors
moved out, the property values
soared. Lawns greened, junkers
disappeared. I realize now
I was white trash.
Maybe I’m still white trash.
My parents never told me.
Did they know? Do they know now?
I like having a clear identity,
if not the one I’d have chosen for myself.
I’d long ago accepted the notion I was
gutter Irish…
My Allen Ginsberg Story, Dacey’s humorous poem of admiration, rocks one
with fastidious details of stage props and prescribed paraphernalia. One
doesn’t usually associate the word fastidious with Allen Ginsberg. And here
lies the rub. Ginsberg apparently acted as a diva before readings with assorted
ecentric demands. The myth of artistic spontaneity slows down and breaks into component parts in this piece. Ginsberg leaves nothing to chance when it comes
to adding honey to his tea. The piece’s form, free verse lines, as Ginsberg might
have written them, almost adds another layer of irony to the poem. Here are some
lines from the heart of the composition,
Ginsberg saw me looking at the traffic jam
of paraphernalia and smiled. No doubt he
knew the effect of his phone call—beyond
bizarre, honey as an emergency. But now
it seemed the act of a consummate pro,
perfectionist  even, showman not about to
let an accident break  a spell. I thought of
Whitman, whose “spontaneous me” didn’t
stop him from revising some poems for
decades. He’d agree that to place a honey
jar and spoon amidst that crush would ask
for a disaster. Still smiling, Ginsberg said,
“You see what I mean.”
Leaping between the arts of dance and writing Dacey’s poem Nijinsky: A Sestina  describes both the medicinal and the madness inherent in the famous dancer’s life. It turns out that Nijinsky was also a talented diarist whose words soar as they detail ruin and degradation.  Dacey’s sestina in homage to Nijinsky is a short-lined poem with odd end words that Najinsky sputtered out nonsensically at one point in his life. But there is no nonsense in Dacey’s poem. The piece is a triumphant pas de deux between the poet and his subject.
One of this collections unusual pieces, The Cockroach Ball, skitters in with beautiful phrasing and organic unhesitant rhymes. Dacey uses the villanelle form here and it is lovely. Along with the obvious humor, the poet expresses his rather wondrous sensitivities. The poem works! Cockroach love in the midst of poverty—who would have thought it possible?
My advice: worship at Dacey’s Church of the Adagio for the very best in contemporary poetry. And do it as soon as possible.

You can check out the book here:

Dennis Daly has been published in numerous poetry journals and magazines and recently nominated for a Pushcart prize.  Ibbetson Street Press published The Custom House, his first full length book of poetry in June, 2012. His second book, a verse translation of Sophocles’ Ajax, was published by Wilderness House Press in August, 2012. His third book of poems entitles Night Walking with Nathaniel was recently released by Dos Madres Press. A fourth book is nearing completion.