For many years, death wasn’t something poet Jeff Danielian had to face, but in recent years he has experienced multiple losses and found himself dealing with situations he had only seen others endure. His latest publication, UNDONE, shows a writer who has evolved (for better or worse) and is dealing with the challenges of that personal evolution.
“The past few years have hit the hardest,” Danielian says. “I’ve lost a lot of friends over the past three or so years to [ill] health, physical and mental, accidents, and old age. It doesn’t seem like there will ever be a pause.”
Danielian also vents his frustrations about the current world. Few among us would say the past three years have been easy, but he worries things will only continue to escalate and bring about more tough times.
“I’ve always been one to question authority and government, politicians, and promises,” Danielian says. “It really seems like we might be headed for a place we can never return from.”
These topics lend many of Danielian’s new poems a sense of anger that wasn’t present in his four previous volumes. The personal struggles and frustrations are apparent in his words, however, he directs his anger in a way that allows room for messages of hope and perseverance.
“I do think that there is hope in all of it, and in the issues and pages of UNDONE; I haven’t given up…yet.”
There is a wistfulness to the collection and wish for things to return to what now seems like simpler times. The somber reminiscence strikes a chord and shows an author handling these new life tests as best as possible.
“Love and relationships, choices and decisions, fate and free will, the past and the future,” Danielian says. “They are all the common themes, and present in my work, but when reflected upon, it does bring us to a slightly negative place.”
In addition to the 45 poems in the collection, UNDONE also includes a screenplay entitled “by Aldous, A collection of three.” Danielian majored in film and screenwriting in college and says the screenplay came about easily. The screenplay is a 30-page adaptation that combines three short stories by Danielian’s favorite author, Aldous Huxley.
“The first concerns a bookseller and a customer, the second an affluent couple and their hired help, and the third an artist, his apprentice, and a customer looking for great work. There is a story within a story in that one. Anyway, given the similar locations, I was able to fly the camera from one story to the next and weave them [together] in a way that worked.”
Danielian says writing has been more difficult in recent years because he has become a harsh critic of his work. He feels he’s putting himself out there more with his current writing. He has also become more lyrical, as local musicians have used his poetry as song lyrics, which he finds to be a wonderful honor.
“That has steered my writing in terms of the flow or structure of some of it,” he adds.
Danielian is already working on his next publication, a young adult novel called Paperboys and Bicycle Thieves, which he has been working on for a long time. He says he has put off completing this project for a long time and is now motivated to finish.
“The death of the remaining childhood friend last year prompted me to get it done,” says Danielian.
While hard at work on his next release, Danielian is taking time to celebrate UNDONE. His release party will take place at Fort Foreclosure, the art studio of the book’s cover artist and Danielian’s dear friend William Schaff.
“The image Jeff used for the cover of the book was created at the beginning of everyone going into lockdown during the pandemic,” says Schaff. “Throughout lockdown, Jeff came and sat with me most nights, he on one side of my half door, and me on the other. Mr. Danielian, his presence and his writing is a large part of the artist community here in Warren. It is an honor to have my images connected with his writing. Mr. Danielian is an exceptional person, but he is also the common man. I enjoy his work because I enjoy knowing what my fellow common man is thinking. God bless Jeff Danielian.”
The UNDONE book release party takes place in Warren on Saturday, November 18 from 6–8 pm. Danielian says he is looking forward to the release party and after-party celebration, which will take place across the street at Jack’s Bar. UNDONE can be purchased by Jeff directly or through 75 or Less Records 75orlessrecords.com.