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In Line for the Exterminator


Jim Daniels

Award Winner

Detroit, Michigan, Poetry

Great Lakes Books Series

Published: August 2007
ISBN: 9780814333815
Pages: 128 Size: 5 x 8
Published: August 2007
ISBN: 9780814335482

In Line for the Exterminator is the final collection in Jim Daniels’s trilogy of books explaining the urban working-class landscape. Daniels, who grew up near the Eight Mile Road boundary between Detroit and suburban Warren, Michigan, walks the razor’s edge of the borderline in this collection, examining complex issues of race and class that are a part of daily life there.

The title poem, "In Line for the Exterminator," sets the ironic tone for this collection, examining a group of people waiting in line for a sinister-sounding amusement-park ride. Daniels presents blue-collar culture both in and out of the workplace, showing its profound influence on the lives of workers and their families. As in Places/Everyone and M-80, Daniels uses his character Digger to show the effects of work on outside life, following Digger into retirement from his factory job and into his struggle to find a new future. In addition, Daniels deals frankly with the specter of urban violence that haunts the community and threatens to tear it apart. Local heroes, from professional wrestler the Sheik to the contemporary rapper Eminem, also appear as touchstones for the community’s complex view of itself.

How do ordinary citizens sustain hope and dignity in the face of economic and societal upheaval? How do people avoid the mirages offered by drugs and alcohol, or the intoxication of guns and crime? In Line for the Exterminator offers no easy answers but presents searing portraits of individuals struggling with these questions and finding small victories and moments of consolation in their everyday lives. Those interested in poetry, depictions of working-class city life, and Detroit social history will enjoy this significant volume.

Jim Daniels is an award-winning poet and Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. He is author of Punching Out (Wayne State University Press, 1990), Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies, Street, and Show and Tell: New and Selected Poems, among other books and screenplays.

Award-winning poet and Professor of English Jim Daniels presents In Line for the Exterminator, an anthology of free-verse poetry that looks at postindustrial Detroit through weathered eyes. A profound testimony to the spirit of an urban community."

– Midwest Book Review

Staring into the past can be perilous, but Jim Daniels can stand on the slopes of nostalgia without slipping. With In Line for the Exterminator, it must be his accurate eye and the way we can hear him talking to us in the living present of these poems."

– Billy Collins, is an American poet

In Line for the Exterminator brings home to Detroit and to Michigan one of our own best witnesses, best record keepers, best elegists. Daniels' understanding of our postindustrial, postwar, racial, ethnic, religiously and socially ghettoized community makes his a powerful and essential testimony. It is generous, singular, and utterly engaging."

– Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking and Apparition & Late Fictions

Daniels leavens pervasive calamities with welcoming yellow porch lights, unquenched rays of hope."

– ForeWord Magazine

  • 2008 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence for Previous Finalists of the Paterson Poetry Prize - Result: Winner