The very first time I encountered the writings of Daniel Jones was in the Fall of 1989. I was accepting submissions for a small chapbook anthology of social/political poetry. Jones submission was the highlight of the lot (reprints of some of those submissions can be found in Urban Graffiti). It isn’t too often that an editor recognizes such talent and brilliance in a writer, and when he does, it’s a unique treat. I knew this was one writer I wanted to get to know.
Indeed, I was to discover that we had much, much more in common besides the written word alone. We both were recovering alcoholics as well as both recovering childhood physical and sexual abuse. It was little surprise that our writings were both so lyrical and incredibly allegorical as a means of piecing together such fragmented childhoods and early adulthood.
Jones was many things. A dishwasher, janitor, grill cook, dispatcher in a psychiatric hospital, landscaper, security guard, bookstore clerk, and arts administrator. These things were not simply what he did, they were who he was — Jones saw himself in these things he did, and everything he saw, everything he did, the people he knew, wound its way into everything that he wrote. Jones subject matter was his own life.
From the start, I considered him not just another writer and publisher, but a good friend. Even the hefty distance between Toronto and Edmonton proved to be no obstacle to our friendship. Our correspondences were lengthy and regular, full of honesty and understanding, humour and wit.
Many recovering alcoholics, as well as those recovering childhood physical and sexual abuse are almost 200% more likely to suffer clinical depression or bipolar depression, too. For me, it was clinical depression that lasted a dozen years before lifting. For Jones, it was a bipolar depression which never did. In his last few missives he complained how his medication had stop working, then his missives stopped arriving.
Of course, the news he’d committed suicide on February 14, 1994 at the age of 34 was a bitter pill to swallow for all who knew him.
Still, Daniel Jones left a wonderful legacy of work that revolved around himself and the city he both loved and loathed with equal measure.
Note: Photo of Jones (c) Sam Kanga