Jim Daniels, Kristin Kovacic to discuss writing about family, lives in workshops

Jim Daniels’ new poetry collection, Gun/Shy, looks backward and forward in time, through time, across time.

“I ended up juxtaposing poems that looked backward to my childhood with poems about being a parent myself,” said Daniels, a poet, educator and the Week Six poet-in-residence at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. “I quickly discovered the resonance between them.”

Daniels said the setting for many of his poems in Gun/Shy is the city of Detroit, a place very close to his heart.

“I come from a family of auto workers,” he said. “I worked on the assembly line myself. One of the themes I’ve always been interested in (with) my work is the connection between your working life and your home life. Oftentimes when I’m reading fiction or poetry, I’m saying, ‘Well, what do these people do for a living?’ because it has a huge effect on your life.”

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 31, in the Hall of Philosophy, Daniels will read from Gun/Shy to a Chautauqua audience along with his wife, nonfiction writer Kristin Kovacic, who will read from an untitled manuscript of essays. Daniels will teach a week-long poetry workshop, titled “Writing Lives, Writing Poems,” while Kovacic, the Week Six prose writer-in-residence will teach the prose workshop, “Between Sentiment and Scorn: Writing Truthfully and Ethically about Family.”

“I’m going to be reading from a series of essays about dwelling,” she said. “I’ve moved recently. Now I live in a church, a repurposed church. The essays use the church as a metaphor, and they go in many different directions. The series is about a stage of life — the afterlife.”

Kovacic has entered her “afterlife,” she said, in the sense that she’s past her life as a mother and teacher.

“The church itself is having an afterlife, too,” she said. “It was once a house of worship for generations of Slovaks in the southside of Pittsburgh. It’s having a life after its initial function as a church. I’ve been thinking a lot about houses and this stage of life, which I think a lot of Chautauquans are in.”

Kovacic said her afterlife is “a kind of return,” since her father and grandmother settled in the same part of Pittsburgh where she lives now after they immigrated from Yugoslavia. 

“Something I’ve also been thinking about is the difference between essays and memoir,” she said. “Essays are discrete, in and of themselves, which distinguishes them from memoir. Essays are more discrete explorations.”

Kovacic said that when it comes to her “afterlife,” a lot of the last third of her life has involved caregiving for her parents, adjusting to physical changes and getting used to her new relationship with the world.

“I’m exploring how that comes at me, and how to navigate it,” she said. “I’m hoping that that resonates with a lot of Chautauquans.” 

Tags : literary arts

The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.