Archive for October 31st, 2018

He did it! He did it! Dana Gioia reaches all 58 California counties as poet laureate!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018
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California poet laureate Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, had a goal to visit every county in the state. This week he completed his task. It’s taken two years, 16 flights, and 17,000 miles on the road for him to do it.

“Each California Poet Laureate takes on a significant cultural project, with one of its goals being to bring poetry to those who might otherwise have little exposure. As his project, Gioia’s county tour was an incredible achievement to that end,” according to the California Arts Council. His term of office, which began in December 2015, officially ends this week.

So what was his final destination, County № 58? Hanford Library in Kings County, in the San Joaquin Valley. “We ended things with a bang — a nice crowd, a live band, ten poets, and a dozen freight-train whistles blasting by,” he said.

As a friend, I know how demanding and labor-intensive that goal was for him – so often I phoned Dana when he was in a car, on a lonely stretch of some interstate, headed to a reading or a festival or other event in some remote city. Or else on his way into a meeting, celebration, a dinner. He was thoroughly devoted to his task.

I wrote about his inspiring appearance at the inaugural Sierra Poetry Festival here. He really did make a difference.

Earlier this month, Dana put the cherry on the sundae: he brought together more than sixty city, county, regional and state laureates, past and present, in a historic gathering and group reading at the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga. “The event marked the only large-scale gathering of California’s laureates since the termed position of state poet laureate was first established in 2001,” according to the council.

“My aim as California poet laureate was to reach the whole state, not just the literary centers,” he said. “Visiting every county in this huge state to create events with local writers was not just an adventure—it was fun. I traveled through astonishing landscapes, and everywhere I went, big town or small, I met poets, musicians, and artists. Serving as laureate has been one of the great experiences of my life.”

One of ours, too, Dana. California thanks you.