The University of Wisconsin Press



Jim Daniels

The Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, General Editor

"Jim Daniels' work is strong, direct, with a contemporary validity." —Gwendolyn Brooks

Jim Daniels, in his first book of poems, draws upon his experiences in living and working in his native Detroit to present a start, realistic picture of urban, blue-collar life. Daniels, his brothers, his father, and his grandfather have all worked in the auto industry, and that background seeps into nearly all these poems.

The first of the book's three sections sketches out this background, then moves into a neighborhood full of people whose lives are so linked to the ups and downs of the auto industry that they have to struggle to find their own lives; in "Still Lives in Detroit, #2," Daniels writes, "There's a man in this picture. / No one can find him." The second section contains the "Digger" poems, a series on the lives of a Detroit auto worker and his family which tries to capture the effects of the work on life outside the factory. Here, we listen to Digger think, dream, wander on psychological journeys while he moves through his routines, shoveling the snow, mowing the lawn, and so forth. In section three, the poems move into the workplace, whether that be a liquor store, a hamburger joint, or a factory.

These poems, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous, concentrate on the efforts of workers to rise above the often depressing work of blue-collar or minimum-wage jobs, to salvage some pride and dignity. The poems in this book try to give a voice to those who are often shut out of poetry. They are important. These lives are important, and the poems, more than anything, say that.

"These poems are both testimony and the articulate gift of its human emotion: that one lives in a world that can feel, and insists on it. . . .Jim Daniels is a poet of unique commitment and ability. He makes poetry and act of deep caring and recognition."—Robert Creeley

"Daniels' poems have exactly what one looks for in a first book—a strong, sure new voice, determinedly his own—as if he had no choice—heartfelt, speaking as certain poets seem able to, for those who are too often, not mute, but inarticulate. The book reads with the power and coherence of a novel, if novels could be written at the pitch of continuous small explosions of emotion."—Stuart Dybek

"These poems are a refreshment. They hiss and steam with the street's vibrant hardness, the effort to look around the corner, pain in the eyes after a long day's work."
—Carolyn Forché

"This is gritty writing. It needs to be read again and again to let your preconceived notions of America change beneath the abrasion of these poems, that is, if you are inclined to seek the truth: Detroit at work in the car factories, and out of work, and at leisure an play and in self contemplation: grease, dirt, and self disgust, from which we get our handsome dashing cars. What could be more characteristic of American life that this irony. The book says it all.
"—David Ignatow

"Jim Daniels is very good, whether he is shoplifting, scraping up dead carrots, or making love to a machine. There is subtle art in his simple poems. He keeps the technique, and much of the suffering, to himself. It is a joy reading him."—Gerald Stern

"Jim Daniels' tough Motown narratives are stark urban creations. He has an infallible ear for the words that come from our stricken industrial cities."
—Paul Zimmer

Jim Daniels was born in Detroit in 1956 and currently lives in Pittsburgh. He is a recipient of a 1985 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. This book is the recipient of the inaugural Brittingham Prize in Poetry. The UW Press also publishes Show and Tell by Jim Daniels.

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Daniels' book is red with a black grid

November 1985

LC: 85-040366 PS
96 pp.  5 1/2 x 8 1/2

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Paper $14.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-10354-5
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