Dana Gioia's intensely discussed, signature essay from 1992, ”Can Poetry Matter?”, and the collection of criticism it introduced the following year, answered the question posed in his chosen title with reference to “the role of language in a free society” and his reluctance to let poetry, together with the other arts, become the “subculture of specialists.” Dana's work as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts has translated many aspects of these hopes for the revitalization of language into a communal reality. Whether as an advocate for regional poetry or for world classics, for so-called higher or lower arts, for traditional forms of lyric or free verse, in programs for young and old, for professionals, schools, and wider communities, from programs for performing Shakespeare to ones for developing basic literacy, Dana's practical labors have aimed at the common societal “action” needed for the task of learning again to read, to listen, to speak, and to sing.
B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University
M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University.
Point Of Interest:
It is difficult to imagine Dana's success in criticism or cultural administration without his own poetic work. It brought to his other labors of language the dimension of connatural knowledge. Dana Gioia's poems are at once particular and universal, personal and perennial. They speak of nature and of incarnated love; they are both familial and of humankind. They remind us that the most treasured aspects of life do not grow unthreatened, that human flourishing and cultural superficiality are not strangers to one another, that without mourning there is no hope, and, recalling a nearly forgotten mode of language, that “there is no silence but when danger comes.” Dana's poems remind us of our gratitude for nature and our often uneasy attention to its creator.