Daniel Marlin, poet, artist, and peace activist, dies at 72

By Judy Wells

Daniel Marlin, age 72, poet, artist, and peace activist, died at his home in Berkeley on Aug. 7, 2017, after a heroic battle with cancer and renal disease over many years. Born in Brooklyn, Feb. 9, 1945, and raised on Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, New York, Dan was the son of George Marlin and Lebe Goldin Marlin.

Daniel attended PS 114, graduated from Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, was a passionate golfer in his teenage years, and later attended UC Berkeley. He dropped out in his second year after realizing the university was not for him, and he began his lifelong adventures as a world traveler, poet, artist, translator, and social activist, with Berkeley as his home base for over fifty years.

Daniel supported his lifestyle as an artist with a variety of part-time jobs: mail handler on the loading dock of the Oakland Main Post Office, gardener, English teacher, but mainly as a telefundraiser for peace, social justice, women’s rights, and environmental nonprofits.

In Berkeley in 2007, Daniel collaborated with Fred Kellogg, QuikBooks publisher, to produce his art book Heart of Ardor, which includes over 300 images drawn from four decades of his watercolors, sketches and collages, combined with his written reflections on his work. Daniel’s favorite subjects are: “landscapes from Tilden Park and views from my old apartment on Derby Street; Japanese rivers, mountains and skies; the boardwalk and beach at Rockaway, New York; the biblical stories of the reunion of Jacob and Joseph and of the Poor Man and the Lamb; streets and faces seen and imagined throughout the Americas; seamstresses, tailors, and angels at sewing machines.”

In 2011, again in collaboration with Fred Kellogg, Daniel produced his Amagasaki Sketchbook, watercolors of the Japanese landscape and sketches of passengers on trains he rode during his time in Japan. Daniel’s work is represented by Mythos Gallery in Berkeley and championed by Sue Steel, director of the gallery. (mythosfirehouse.com).

Daniel’s poetic works include Isaiah at the Wall: Palestine Poems (QuikBooks, 2009) which is based on a trip he took to Palestine and Israel in 2008 with the Middle East Children’s Alliance of Berkeley and his decades of thought about the Israeli occupation of Palestine. His understanding was deepened by poet Mahmoud Darwish, human rights activist Israel Shahak, lawyer and writer Raja Shehadeh, and scholar Sarah Roy. Daniel’s chapbook, Jerusalem & the Boardwalk, vivid poems of his childhood and adolescence in Rockaway and his own art, was published in 1982. He felt that the two American poets who influenced him the most were Kenneth Patchen and e.e. Cummings. Daniel’s art and poetry books are collected in various University of California libraries and several other libraries in the U.S.

Daniel’s other major literary activities included his work as a translator and editor. From 1981 to 1987, he studied with and translated the poems of Malka Heifitz Tussman, a Ukrainian-American Yiddish poet and teacher (1893-1987) who resided in Berkeley. He also produced a rare bilingual chapbook of his own poems in Yiddish and English in 1981 as he was learning Yiddish, and in 1989, participated in a Minority Writers Series at UC Berkeley, reading his poetry in both Yiddish and English, documented by a video recording now held at Cal’s Media Resources Center, Moffitt Library.

With Ralph Dranow and Mitch Zeftel (1946-2010), Daniel co-founded a long-standing East Bay writing group which has endured for almost 40 years. Always a supporter of other poets, Daniel edited books for close friends in his writing circles: David Schooley’s Ravines of the Heart: San Bruno Mountain – Poems, Drawings, Essays (2014); Sanford Dorbin’s Travelogue for Two, Poems by Sanford and Friends (2014); Mitchell Zeftel’s Rear Entrance to the Holyland: Selected Writing (co-edited with Ralph Dranow, 2011). All three books were published by QuikBooks. In addition, in 1998 Daniel and David Schooley published the collection Now then, Arden: A Book of Memories of Arden Mayhew Tavistock.

Throughout his lifetime, Daniel was a dedicated peace activist, concentrating on antinuclear activities, both in Berkeley and in Japan. For years, he participated in Berkeley’s Circle of Concern, holding vigil against UC’s management of the United States nuclear weapons laboratories at Livermore and Los Alamos, New Mexico, and from 2011 on, he participated in No Nuke Action. He was also an environmental activist with the San Bruno Mountain Watch starting in 1969.

His survivors include his wife, Toshiko Watanabe of Berkeley and Amagasaki, Japan; brother Jeffrey Marlin and wife Joan Kraus of Rockaway, New York; nephew Jacob Marlin; cousins Pamela Ericson and Richard Marlin; and a circle of longtime Berkeley and worldwide friends who will deeply miss him.

A celebration of Daniel Marlin’s life and art will be held Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Harriet Tubman Terrace Community Room, 2870 Adeline St, in Berkeley.