Carnegie Mellon University
February 02, 2017

Jim Daniels’ "Rowing Inland" Takes Readers Back to Metro Detroit

Daniels Refocuses on Working-Class Life in His 15th Book of Poetry

By Stefanie Johndrow

From the last meals his mother is able to cook and joy rides to Canada, to childhood and the end of it, Carnegie Mellon University’s Jim Daniels circles back to his life in Detroit in his 15th book of poetry, “Rowing Inland.”

Similar to many of Daniels’ works, urban and working-class life appear throughout the four sections of the collection. While Detroit shows up in many of Daniels’ pieces, this time around he’s looking at it as both an insider and an outsider.

“I’m looking at it from a different perspective, I think, of someone who has been away for a while and may be seeing things with a little more distance,” said Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English. “‘Rowing Inland’ is acknowledging this is where I’m from, it’s the people I’m from, and that’s always going to be a part of me and my work.”

Rowing InlandIn “Welcome to Warren,” Daniels retrospectively tours his formative years in his hometown, a working-class community on the edge of the Motor City. Daniels’ memories of Warren reside in the hidden beauty that lies “under the raised sidewalk square tilted by underground root-shifting,” moving the heavy things out of his parents’ home after 42 years, 7 months and 23 days and the end of his childhood.

Daniels also addresses the financial crisis relating to the auto industry that his family and friends have experienced.

“I also talk about economic issues particularly in the last economic turndown when the auto industry had to be bailed out by the government, and the whole auto industry was in danger of collapsing,” Daniels said. “In Detroit, people I knew were losing their jobs and houses, and I wanted to capture some of that.”

Daniels will follow “Rowing Inland” with “Street Calligraphy,” coming out later this year. It will feature a collection of poems exploring the complexities of family, from dealing with aging parents on one side to dealing with children entering adulthood on the other.

“Poetry keeps pulling me back to certain subjects because I can’t make my peace with them, or figure them out or I feel differently about them depending on what is happening in my present life,” Daniels said.

Daniels will read from “Rowing Inland” on March 1 at 7 p.m. in the Cohon University Center’s Peter, Wright McKenna rooms.

“Rowing Inland” was published by Wayne State University Press.

Watch a video of Daniels reading from “Rowing Inland.”