Dana Gioia

Acclaimed poet and past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Book Review, and he is a frequent BBC Radio commentator on American culture and literature. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was vice president of marketing for General Foods. In 2011 Gioia became Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California and 2015, Gioia became the State Poet Laureate of California. He holds degrees from Harvard and Stanford Universities.

Trained in music, Gioia has been the classical music critic for San Francisco magazine for the past six years. His work has been set to music by many composers in genres from classical to rock, including a full-length dance theater piece, "Counting the Children." He has written the libretto for Nosferatu, an opera, with composer Alva Henderson, which was published by Graywolf in 2001.

Gioia is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, German and Romanian. In 2001 he founded "Teaching Poetry," a conference dedicated to improving high school teaching of poetry. He is the founder and co-director of the West Chester University summer conference of Form and Narrative, the nation's largest annual all-poetry writing conference. Along with being vice president of the Poetry Society of America and serving on the boards of numerous arts organizations, Gioia has taught as a visiting writer at several universities, including Johns Hopkins University and Wesleyan University.

In early 2002, Gioia was selected as a winner of the 23rd annual American Book Awards for his third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001). Gioia read from that collection on Volume 51 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, and was featured discussing the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Volume 53 of the Journal. Gioia's poetry has been praised in the American Book Review by Matthew Brennan for "keeping the lyric impulse alive and well."

Gioia first gained national attention in 1991 when the Atlantic Monthly published his provocative essay "Can Poetry Matter?" The article, which argued for a place for poetry in "American public culture," garnered more letters of response than any article the magazine had published in decades. Many of the letters replied negatively to Gioia's thesis: while poetry had become increasingly important over the last few decades among academics and specialists, he wrote, it had decreased in importance and accessibility for the general public. After tracing the migration of poetry and poets from Greenwich Village to the Ivory Tower, Gioia offered several proposals for returning the art to the public. These included using radio to expand the art's audience, and mixing poetry with other arts at public readings. "Can Poetry Matter?" has been re-issued in the tenth-anniversary edition of the book by the same name, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (Graywolf Press, 2002).


Volume 135

Guests on Volume 135: Bob Cutillo, on the importance of understanding health as a gift; Hans Boersma, on recovering the patristic recognition of the sacramental presence of Christ in the Old Testatment; Dana Gioia, on the devout life and distinctive poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins; Matthew Levering, on the history of proofs of God’s existence, and what we learn about reason when we reason about God; Bruce Gordon, on his “biography” of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion; and Markus Rathey, on the dramatic and liturgical character of the major vocal works of Johann Sebastian Bach.


Volume 111

Guests on Volume 111: Siva Vaidhyanathan, on why trusting Google to organize the world's knowledge is an odd (and dangerous) thing to do; John Fea, on the history of the idea of America as a Christian nation and on how the Founders were—as statesmen—less interested in the truth of religion than in its political utility; Ross Douthat, on how commitment to historical Christian orthodoxy has eroded among American religious institutions since the 1960s; Ian Ker, on why G. K. Chesterton deserves wider recognition as a significant literary critic; Larry Woiwode, on how his decision to become a writer grew out of a desire to make connections with other people; and Dana Gioia, on the remarkable life of poet John Donne and how his spiritual and intellectual struggles created the conditions for his unique poetic voice.


On Books and Reading

In this Anthology, Ken Myers talks with poet and former National Endowment for the Arts chairman Dana Gioia about the decline in reading among Americans of all ages and education. Also discussing the benefits of reading and the tragedy of its decline are literary critic Sven Birkerts, painter Makoto Fujimura, columnist Maggie Jackson, pastor-theologian Eugene Peterson, preacher and media ecologist Gregory Reynolds, and portrait painter Catherine Prescott. 73 minutes.


Volume 90

Guests on Volume 90: J. Mark Bertrand, on how the language of "worldviews" can mean something richer than it often does; Michael P. Schutt, on how the day-to-day practice of Christian lawyers can reflect a Christian view of the nature of law; Michael Ward, on how C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia were shaped by medieval cosmological beliefs about the seven planets; Dana Gioia, on the disturbing trends in the reading (non)habits of Americans; Makoto Fujimura, on reading, painting, and attending to the world; Gregory Edward Reynolds, on lessons about reading from the study of media ecology; Catherine Prescott, on why portrait painters often depict their subjects with books in their hands; and Eugene Peterson, on the place of reading in the spiritual lives of Christians.


Volume 70

Guests on Volume 70: W. Wesley McDonald, on the significance of Russell Kirk’s themes of the "permanent things" and "the moral imagination"; C. Ben Mitchell, on law, wisdom, and the possibilities of pastoral guidance on bioethical decisions, and on why and how the Church should be more welcoming toward the elderly; Carl Elliott, on the medical industry’s move from healing to enhancing self-esteem and idenity formation; Richard Weikart, on the rise of "evolutionary ethics," the embrace toward ethical relativism, and the slide toward eugenics; Christine Rosen, on how and why early 20th century American religious leaders encouraged eugenics in the name of moral progress; and Dana Gioia, on the decline in literary reading in America and on the cultural loss it signifies.


Volume 53

Guests on Volume 53: Lawrence Adams, on the possibilities of religious pluralism in Islamic views of state and society; Dana Gioia, on the craft, popularity, and significance of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Elmer M. Colyer, on theologian Thomas F. Torrance's understanding of the Incarnation; R. A. Herrera, on how the Christian view of Creation and Incarnation shapes an understanding of history; Margaret Visser, on learning to recognize the deep meaning in the design of Christian churches; and Joseph Pearce, on Tolkien's other writings and on his view of myth and story.


Volume 51

Guests on Volume 51: Nigel Cameron, on the challenges of bioethics and how Christians ignore them; David Blankenhorn, on the public meaning of marriage and the private sector and the family; Robert Wuthnow, on creativity and faith; Mortimer Adler, on philosophical theism and How to Think about God; Roger Lundin, on the vision of William Blake; Dana Gioia, on the place of poetry and the way words work; Mary Midgley, on the ways science explains reality; and Ted Libbey, on the life and music of Edmund Rubbra.