Willimantic, Conn. – “As writers we’re all trying to connect with whomever we can connect with, however we can connect with them,” said poet Jim Daniels, a writer and English professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, when he visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 13. The accomplished writer spoke to aspiring writers, interested readers and fellow English professors about his work and the writing process. The event was sponsored by the Eastern Writer’s Guild in collaboration with the English Department.
Daniels read poems from across his body of work, including “Factory Love,” “Turning Down the Ars Poetica, Heating Up the Leftovers,” “Megadeath,” “Outdoor Chef,” “Hotdog Variations,” “Wheels,” “One Word,” “Beautiful Thing” and “The Sound of It.” His topics vary from food to love, and to the perspectives of students, teachers, parents and children. Much of what he writes about is based on personal past experiences and people he knows. That is not to say his writing is strictly autobiographical because, as Daniels said, “The truth is no excuse for a bad poem — the poem has to generate its own truth.”
Daniels has also worked on several artistic films. “They are a very different experience than writing creatively because that’s solo work. Working on a film is extremely collaborative,” he said. “I enjoy it because other people come up with amazing ideas that I never would have thought of.” There are similarities between poetry and movies too, he explained. “Both are incredibly dependent on imagery, even though one the audience is actually seeing it, and the other you want the audience to be able to see it in their mind.”
After his presentation Daniels answered questions from students about how his family and friends react to poems about them, and about his writing process. “Maybe poetry can be the thing in your life that isn’t toxic when everything else seems kind of toxic,” he offered the crowd as a last piece of advice. Students also had the opportunity to talk to Daniels one on one and to have their books signed.
During his long writing career, Daniels has been awarded the Brittingham Prize for Poetry, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and two from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. He has taught creative writing for poetry, fiction and screenwriting for the past 33 years. In addition to his volumes of poetry and short stories, Daniels has also written and produced three screenplays.