Jim Daniels, in his first book of poems, draws upon his experiences in living and working in his native Detroit to present a start, realistic picture of urban, blue-collar life. Daniels, his brothers, his father, and his grandfather have all worked in the auto industry, and that background seeps into nearly all these poems.
The first of the book's three sections sketches out this background, then moves into a neighborhood full of people whose lives are so linked to the ups and downs of the auto industry that they have to struggle to find their own lives; in "Still Lives in Detroit, #2," Daniels writes, "There's a man in this picture. / No one can find him." The second section contains the "Digger" poems, a series on the lives of a Detroit auto worker and his family which tries to capture the effects of the work on life outside the factory. Here, we listen to Digger think, dream, wander on psychological journeys while he moves through his routines, shoveling the snow, mowing the lawn, and so forth. In section three, the poems move into the workplace, whether that be a liquor store, a hamburger joint, or a factory.
These poems, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous, concentrate on the efforts of workers to rise above the often depressing work of blue-collar or minimum-wage jobs, to salvage some pride and dignity. The poems in this book try to give a voice to those who are often shut out of poetry. They are important. These lives are important, and the poems, more than anything, say that.