By: Jonathan Chiang
By: Jonathan Chiang
“Infinity is Open to Your Sight”: A Brief Biography of Dana Gioia “Dana Gioia is a prominent advocate for the restoration of meter, rhyme, and traditional formal structures to American poetry” (Muratori). He is considered to be one of the best known poets affiliated with the New Formalism movement. This movement emphasized traditional poetic techniques as well as narrative and non-autobiographical subject matter. Gioia is an essayist, critic, translator, cultural commentator, and a librettist. It was his poetry and prose that he first began to gain national attention and fame in the early 1980s, frequently appearing in journals and magazines like The Hudson Review, Poetry, and The New Yorker. Gioia also wrote a number of essays and book reviews around the same time. He has received numerous awards including 10 honorary doctorates, the 2002 American Book Award, and the 2010 Laetare Medal from Notre Dame.
Dana Gioia was born on December 24, 1950 in Hawthorne, California, the son of Michael Gioia and Dorothy Ortez. His other brother, Ted Gioia, is a jazz musician. He grew up in Hawthorne speaking Italian in a Mexican neighborhood. He attended Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, California. Because of his multicultural background, he picked up languages easily. He spent his college years in Vienna, Austria, where he became fluent in German. (Dana Gioia, Newsmakers). After Dana obtained his B.A., M.A., and M.B.A., he joined the General Foods Corporation from 1977-1972 where he rose to the rank of vice president. “He was on the team that invented Jell-O jigglers. He is also credited with reversing a long-running sales decline for Jello” (Dana Gioia, Wikipedia). He resigned in 1992 to become a full time writer. After General Food, Gioia served as vice president of the Poetry Society of America from 1992-1997. He has published four full length collections of poetry, as well as eight chapbooks (Dana Gioia Newsmakers). From 2003-2009, he was chairman of the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). During this time, he created many programs to encourage kids to read more poems and literature. He married Mary Elizabeth Hiecke on February 23, 1980 and they had three sons, Michael Jasper Gioia (who died in infancy); Michael Frederick “Mike” Gioia; and Theodore Jasper “Ted” Gioia (Dana Gioia, Wikipedia) Chiang 2
Gioia shook up and profoundly changed the NEA after he became the chairman. He found an agency that for over fifteen years, “ was demoralized, defensive, unconfident and was suffering from the institutional version of battered child syndrome” (Dana Gioia, Wikipedia). He was compelled to do something and so he created new programs such as Shakespeare in American Communities and the NEA Jazz Masters. Another program he started was Poetry Out Loud. It was a contest in which kids read their poems or works of literature out loud and the most impressive contestant would receive the Poetry Out Loud National Championship and $50,000 in awards. Poetry Out Loud was designed to encourage more kids to take an interest in poetry and literature. In an interview with Poetry Daily, Dana said that the number of kids that participated was overwhelming, especially considering that the program didn’t have sufficient funding to reach every school in most states. It showed that people liked poetry when it was engagingly presented. In another part of the interview, he said When the program started, I told the organizers that it wouldn’t be necessarily be the “A” students in English who won the competitions. It would be students who had gifts that the analysis-heavy literature curriculum did not recognize-the intuitive thinkers and physical kids, such as athletes, dancers, musicians, and theater kids. It might also invite the class clowns to participate. Poetry Out Loud provides an entry and literature through...