An Interview With Poet Jim Daniels
'I carry the city around inside me no matter where I go.'
Published: February 5, 2014
Sometimes I ask myself, “What is it about Detroit? Why are you still writing about it so much?” That’s why I titled the new book Birth Marks, because where I was born, where I come from, literally and figuratively, has marked me and the way I view the world forever. And I think that’s how I see myself as still being a Detroit poet — I carry the city around inside me no matter where I go.
To address the other issue, I was born on the east side of Detroit, and when I was just a toddler, my parents moved to our house in Warren between Eight and Nine Mile off of Ryan, behind Bronco Lanes bowling alley, where they stayed for around 50 years. So, yeah, Warren is my place — and anyone reading this knows Warren is not Detroit by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it Birmingham by any stretch of the imagination. … Actually, one of the things I often write about is the border mentality of growing up near Eight Mile. Long before Eminem, long before Coleman Young told the criminals to “hit Eight Mile,” Eight Mile was a symbol. My next book of short stories is called Eight Mile High — Michigan State University Press will publish it next fall — so I’m really zooming in on that territory. Of course, there’s no Eight Mile High, but that fictitious school is a kind of constant through the book. I write about other places — Pittsburgh had got a hold on me too — but Detroit, to paraphrase the writer Richard Price, is the “ZIP code of my heart.”
As part of the Scratch the Page series presented by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project, Jim Daniels reads from his new book of poems at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
> Email Peter Markus