Wednesday, August 7, 2019

From Nature Trails to the Moon: An Interview with Jim Daniels

The Ohio Poetry Association is pleased to host poet and writer Jim Daniels as the 2019 Sun & Moon Festival keynote speaker. Daniels is the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. He has authored seventeen books of poetry, most recently, The Middle Ages (Red Mountain Press, 2018).

In the following interview with OPA Treasurer Sayuri Ayers, Jim Daniels shares his insights on his most recent projects and his processes as a writer.  

SA: We are so honored to have you as the keynote speaker for the 2019 Sun & Moon Festival. What can participants look forward to in your keynote workshop?  

JD: One of my main interests as a writer has been the poetry of work—writing about our daily jobs, however we define them. The workplace is a microcosm of the larger world, but in poetry it is often ignored as a subject, despite the impact it has on the rest of our lives. My workshop will provide a range of sample poems from a range of occupations in order to try to get participants to engage in their own work histories as potential subject matter for their poems.

SA: The Moon Ark is a highly collaborative project that combines arts, humanities, sciences, and technologies. (Our readers may find out more about this project here.)  May you tell us more about your role as the poetry curator for the Moon Ark's Moon Poems collection? How did you select poems that embody "the spiritual essence of the moon?" 

JD: This was a lot of fun. I learned a lot through the process of researching poems about the moon—that was my job, to find poems about the moon to send to the moon. While I wanted to be representative in some way, I didn’t worry about it being a complete historical record. There are so many wonderful ones—I couldn’t include them all. I tried to include poems that, throughout the ages, dealt with looking at the moon with awe and wonder. The moon clearly is a mirror in some way—we see ourselves reflected back. Doing the research inspired a whole series of my own moon poems. Given the conceit of the project, I took on the notion of trying to explain to the moon as if [it] were a person (personifying the moon has been an international sport throughout the ages) all the crazy things that we’ve been doing down here.

SA: When reviewing your 2013 book of poetry, Birth Marks, Li-Young Lee said that you "stand in silent awe and wonder at the world turning about [you], a world of unaccountable suffering and unaccounted for beauty." How do you, through your poetry, navigate this world?

JD: As humbly and as open as I can. I need to remind myself to stand still and take things in and try to maintain the awe and wonder of childhood and not get too cynical about the world—to keep looking for the beauty despite the suffering.

SA: In your poem, "Man with Child, May," nature is intricately interwoven into human relationships. How does the dynamic between nature and humankind influence your creative process?

JD: First, an interesting thing about this poem is that the inspiration for it came in Yellow Springs when I was there for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop a number of years ago. Though it was probably June or July, not May. This image of this guy with his shirt off holding this baby outside early one morning in a grassy meadow really stuck with me.

Perhaps it’s in the tension between the human and the natural worlds. We continue to infringe upon and destroy the natural world, and I suppose on a larger level that’s something I think about a lot.

SA: When was your first memorable experience with the natural world? Did you describe this experience in one of your poems?

JD: It’s hard to remember a first experience here, but I did write a poem called “My Nature Poem” that played on the word “nature,” since we had so little natural beauty among the concrete streets, strip malls, and auto factories of Detroit.

SA: Much of your work is influenced by places such as Pittsburgh and Detroit. Is there a place in nature that you gravitate towards, as a place of inspiration or rejuvenation? 

JD: In urban environments, you take what nature you can find. In Detroit, it was behind my parents’ garage on a small plot of grass or in the field that was somehow passed over in the development of our neighborhood. In Pittsburgh, I’m fortunate enough to live across a bridge from Schenley Park, which some call the Central Park of Pittsburgh. I spend a lot of time walking the trails in the park throughout the year and have set a number of poems there as well—particularly about spending time in the park with my children when they were young. I get a lot of ideas for poems while walking in the park, so I need to make sure I have a pen and some notecards with me as I walk,

SA: In past interviews, you've described the importance of "emotional urgency" in poems. What poem first struck you with its "emotional urgency?" When do you know you've established "emotional urgency" in your work?

JD: For me, emotional urgency involves making my readers feel some of what I felt that inspired the piece. To go beyond simply understanding how the speaker in my work is feeling to feel some of that emotion unfiltered. For me, that’s what makes any work of literature memorable—I am moved by it.

The first living poet I read (and he’s over 100 now!), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, moved me because he made me feel what he was feeling. There’s a reason A Coney Island of the Mind is one of the best-selling books of poetry—he connected with his readers.

I can’t really know if I’ve established that urgency in my own poems until I get reactions from readers. I do know that the more concrete detail I include, the more likely I’m going to be able to move some readers by placing them in the world of the poem and making it as real as possible.

SA: Your fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was released in 2014 by Michigan State University Press. How has your poetry influenced your prose?

JD: My sixth book of short fiction, The Perp Walk, was published this past May by Michigan State University Press, so I continue to write prose. The poetry and prose influence each other. In The Perp Walk, I alternate flash fiction/prose poems with traditional short stories throughout. I often use a lot of sections in my stories and jump around in time, just like I do in my poems. I like writing simultaneous narratives—two stories in the same thread, playing off each other. Juxtaposition is the main technique that I use in my fiction that is borrowed from my poetry.

SA: What words of wisdom would you offer to a discouraged writer or poet?

JD: To be honest, I frequently get discouraged myself, so I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom. It may sound a bit corny, and it certainly applies to just about everything, but for me it’s simply persistence and hard work that drive me, and whatever little success I have had I attribute to that. While there are clearly more talented writers out there, I always tell myself that no one is going to outwork me. 

To find out more information about the Sun & Moon Festival, please click here.  

Festival registration is now open and will end on August 31st.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Picnic Fundraiser will feature terrific Auction Items

The 2019 OPA All-Star Picnic and Fundraiser will be a special celebration of our 90th anniversary as an organization. In addition to some all-star readers, we'll have some past presidents join us and share their words along with a special edition of our yearly open-mic. We don't want to give away the details, but let's just say that those who want to read should be ready to pass the baton.

For our fundraising efforts, we'll have both live and silent auctions with some delicious--though not always nutritious--baskets up for grabs. The highlight of the afternoon auctions will be a live bidding on a Sun & Moon Poetry Festival package. Check out all the auction item details below then join us for the OPA picnic on July 13 at Antrim Park in Columbus (details here).

Our sincerest thanks to the auction sponsors: Gramercy Books, Full/Crescent Press, Andy Barr, Susann Moeller, Stephanie Harrell, and Jim Daniels.


  • Sun & Moon Festival Registration
  • Keynote Workshop Registration
  • A Collection of Jim Daniels’ Books (pick up at Festival)

  • Framed Broadside: "Writer’s Block" by David Chorlton (No 4, E.A.)
  • Annual OPA Membership

Grand Merci Basket
  • Gramercy Books Jute Tote
  • $20 Gift Card for Gramercy Books
  • Gramercy Books Hot/Cold Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler
  • Cloth Basket

Grapes of Wrath Basket
  • Chateau St Jean, Fume Blanc, 2013
  • Dry Creek, Zinfandel, 2013
  • Crackers
  • Reed Basket

Dip into Salsa Poetry Basket
  • Hand-pottered Dipping Dish
  • Chips & Salsa
  • Bread Basket

Writer's Block Therapy Basket
  • Hand-pottered Ergonomic Mug
  • Praline Chestnut Cocoa
  • Cookies
  • Bread Basket

Dream Poems Basket
  • Abalone Inlay Bracelet
  • Mother of Pearl Inlay Pendant
  • Lined Jewelry Basket

Tea for Two Poets Basket
  • Porcelain Teapot w/Infuser
  • 2 Tea Mugs
  • Twinings Tea Selection
  • Cookies
  • Paper Napkins
  • Basket

  • Full/Crescent Press Books
  • Tennessee Blackberry Moonshine
  • Lined Picnic Basket
  • Shot Glasses

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Columbus Foundation Continues Support of OPA in 2019

For an eighth consecutive year, the Ohio Poetry Association (OPA) has been awarded a grant from The Columbus Foundation (TCF) for general operating support.

A total of $1,940 will be provided to OPA from the William C. and Naoma W. Denison Fund. This grant is the largest OPA has garnered from TCF.

“We are thrilled by this news and grateful to The Columbus Foundation for continuing to support OPA,” said OPA President Chuck Salmons. “This grant will permit us to move forward with all of the special programs and events we are hosting to celebrate our 90th anniversary year.”

OPA has earned TCF support annually since establishing a profile with the philanthropic organization in 2011, when it established its PowerPhilanthropy website. Since then, the site has evolved and is now known as The Giving Store.

Billed as “Your one-stop shop for charitable giving,” The Giving Store offers an extensive directory of nonprofit organizations based and doing work in central Ohio. Potential donors can search these listings for charities and nonprofits that they want to support and then donate with the simple click of a button.

Click here to view OPA’s listing on The Giving Store and to donate.

The Ohio Poetry Association is extremely grateful to The Columbus Foundation for its continued support. For more information, visit the TCF website at