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Born in South Carolina and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Daniel has lived in the West since 1966. After attending and dropping out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, he worked as a logger, railroad inspector, rock climbing instructor, hod carrier, and poet-in-the-schools. He began to write poetry and prose in the 1970s while living on a ranch in south-central Oregon. In 1982 he received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford University, where he then took an M.A. in English/Creative Writing and taught five years as a Jones Lecturer in Poetry and a lecturer in Freshman English. He now makes his living as a writer and itinerant teacher in workshops and writer-in-residence positions around the country.
Daniel’s newest book, forthcoming from Counterpoint Press in April 2017, is a first novel set during the 1990s in the Oregon Coast Range foothills where he lives. Gifted tells the story of a young man with a spiritual imagination and a rare affinity for wild creatures who comes of age under harsh circumstances, negotiating the wildness of his home country, his human relationships, and the emerging complexities of his own being. Early commenters have called the book “bold and generous,” “a lyrical, soaring tale,” “a transformative novel,” and “a powerful story of family, place, and identity, part Catcher in the Rye, part Sometimes a Great Notion.”
The Far Corner: Northwestern Views on Land, Life, and Literature, was published in 2009 by Counterpoint and won the 2011 Oregon Book Award in Literary Nonfiction from Literary Arts. This collection of personal essays casts an eye on various subjects in the human and more-than-human worlds—from old-growth forest to death and dying, from the joys of life on the move to the satisfactions of putting down roots—spinning narratives that seek to define Daniel’s allegiances to his home places and region and the wholeness of life itself. The Far Corner extends the work in the essay form that he collected in The Trail Home, published in 1992 by Pantheon Books and winner of the 1993 Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction.
Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone was published by Shoemaker & Hoard (now Counterpoint) in 2005. This volume, a blend of three nonfiction narratives, is an account of a four-and-a-half-month experiment in solitude in a remote Rogue River cabin, and is also a memoir of Daniel’s father’s life and career in the American labor movement and of his own growing up and coming of age in the 1960s. Rogue River Journal was awarded a 2006 Book Award by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.
Looking After: A Son’s Memoir, about caring for his mother in the last years of her life as she declined with Alzheimer’s, was published in 1996 by Counterpoint and won the 1997 Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction. Oregon Rivers (Westcliffe Publishers), a collaboration with photographer Larry N. Olson, appeared in 1997, and Winter Creek: One Writer’s Natural History came out in the Credo Series from Milkweed Editions in 2002.
Daniel has contributed essays and articles to magazines and literary journals such as Audubon, Outside, Southwest Review, Western American Literature, Portland Magazine, Open Spaces, Oregon Humanities, Orion, and to more than twenty textbooks and anthologies, including The Norton Book of Nature Writing, Writing the Journey, Facing the Lion, The Geography of Hope, Literature and the Environment, Natural State, and The Sacred Earth.
Daniel is the author of three poetry collections, Common Ground (Confluence Press, 1988), All Things Touched by Wind (Salmon Run Press, 1994), and Of Earth: New and Selected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2012). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, North American Review, Sierra, Poetry of the American West, The Pushcart Prize VIII, and other magazines and anthologies. Daniel compiled and edited Wild Song: Poems of the Natural World (University of Georgia Press, 1998), a collection of verse first published in Wilderness Magazine, of which he was poetry editor from 1988 to 2011. A commissioned poem (untitled) appears as a 270-foot frieze in the interior of Fern Ridge Library in Veneta, Oregon.
Daniel teaches regularly at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers summer workshops and the Fishtrap gathering in northeast Oregon. He has been the James T. Thurber Writer-in-Residence at Ohio State University, the Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the MFA program of St. Mary’s College of California, and the Viebranz Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at St. Lawrence University in northern New York State. He has also taught briefly at Sweet Briar College, Austin Peay State University, Lewis & Clark College, Portland State University, Oregon State University, the University of Montana, and elsewhere.
Daniel’s work in poetry and prose has won a Pushcart Prize, the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, the John Burroughs Nature Essay Award, three Oregon Book Awards, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, a Research and Writing Fellowship from Oregon State University’s Center for the Humanities, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
He is chair of PEN Northwest, a regional branch of the writers’ organization PEN America, and in that role administers the annual Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency in the Rogue River canyon. He serves on the judging panel for the John Burroughs Association’s annual Nature Essay Award and has served on the board of directors of Literary Arts, a private nonprofit that seeks to enrich the lives of Oregonians through language and literature. He lives with his wife, Marilyn Daniel, in the Coast Range foothills west of Eugene, Oregon.