Jim Daniels Wins Three Book Awards
By David Golebiewski
When Jim Daniels first got serious about reading and writing literature, it bothered him that the lives of the people that he cared about most were not represented in the books that he read.
“Coming from the Detroit area, the car and factory culture, I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder about that,” Daniels said.
Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University, has sought throughout his career to “find the extraordinary in the ordinary, to get beneath the surface of our everyday lives to figure out what’s really going on.” His skill in showing the spectrum of life’s emotions and experiences has earned him three book awards for two works published in 2011.
Daniels’ poetry collection, “Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry,” won the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2012 Gold Medal for Poetry and the 2012 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence from the Paterson Poetry Center. His latest book of short stories, “Trigger Man: More Tales of the Motor City,” took home top honors in the Fiction: Short Story/Anthology category for the Midwest Book Awards.
In “Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry,” Daniels explores topics ranging from childhood to parenthood, from teaching to the “Godfather of Soul.” One section of poems, “Esperantos,” tries to capture in words the visceral reaction that music from the likes of James Brown so often produces.
“I got out my old turntable and records and had a good time,” Daniels said. “I was struck by the different spins he put on the word ‘please’ in ‘Please, Please, Please.’ On paper, you just gloss over the repetitions. But in the song, it seems like nearly every one is different, they build on each other. It got me thinking about other distinctive voices and the moods they create.”
“Trigger Man” follows the lives of those confronting issues such as poverty, substance abuse and lost love, but Daniels’ characters don’t lose their sense of humor through their travails.
“People in grim circumstances often rely on humor as a coping mechanism,” Daniels said. “Making jokes is one way of gaining some small measure of control. I guess the stories also reflect my own twisted sense of humor."
Daniels has taught creative writing at Carnegie Mellon since 1981 and has also won the Bittingham Prize for Poetry, the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize, the Tillie Olsen Prize and two fellowships from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts. His next book of poems, “Birth Marks,” will be published by BOA Editions in 2013.