Posts Tagged ‘“Dana Gioia”’

Happy New Year’s to all – from the Book Haven!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020
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Dana Gioia on the late Scott Timberg: a bitter symbol for those who have been marginalized by our “creative culture.”

Monday, December 16th, 2019
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A society-assisted suicide. He leaves behind a wife and son.

The Los Angeles Review of Books has a long piece on gifted cultural journalist Scott Timberg, who killed himself last week. He was 50. I wrote about it here, and my supposition was correct. He was killed by the “gig economy” he deplored in his 2015 book, Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, which discussed how digital technology and economic polarization were damaging American cultural life.

The LARB piece ends with a range of tributes, one of them from from a close friend, Dana Gioia, California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts:

I knew Scott Timberg for over 25 years. He was not only a close friend and colleague — he was a constant presence in my life. For many years he emailed or phoned me nearly every day to discuss what he was reading or writing. In 2003 we edited a book together on the new literary Los Angeles for which Scott came up with the perfect title, The Misread City.

Scott was determined to give Los Angeles the careful reading that it deserved. I don’t think anyone covered LA culture so prolifically or omnivorously. He wrote about everything happening in the Southland — rock, poetry, fiction, film, theater, jazz, classical music, and the visual arts. He produced hundreds of articles, which had the special Timberg quality of being simultaneously open-minded and opinionated.

Dana Gioia: “something wrong with our culture”

In an age of cultural specialization, Scott’s range was invaluable. His commentary reflected the needs of the general reader who explores the arts with curiosity but finds little intelligent guidance in the media. Scott provided this animated coverage for nearly thirty years at a variety of publications, mostly notably The Day in New London, New Times LALos Angeles Times, and Salon.

Thousands of musicians, artists, writers, publishers, and presenters profited from Scott’s meticulous attention and advocacy. He was not so fortunate.  His professional career was slowly eroded by the economic and technological changes that transformed the contemporary media. Despite his immense productivity, he struggled to earn a living for himself and his family.

Scott combined his difficult personal experiences with his capacious knowledge of the arts and media to create a brilliant study, Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class (2015). This underrated volume remains the best diagnosis of our current cultural dilemma in a society where “information” corporations have become as large as nation states while the writers and artists whose work they exploit can no longer make a living.

Scott’s suicide was a tragic act. He was so greatly loved and so conspicuously talented. No one can truly know what despair or temporary madness motivated it. But his death makes at least one thing obvious to any attentive observer. There is something wrong with our culture when Los Angeles, which now has more artists than any other city in North America, including New York, cannot provide a living wage for such a hard-working and gifted critic.

In his death, Scott Timberg becomes a representative figure, a bitter symbol for thousands of other writers and artists who have been marginalized by our much-touted “creative culture.” I mourn him personally and publicly. His passing diminishes the California culture he did so much to honor.

Read the whole thing here.

A postscript from Dana’s brother, the jazz scholar Ted Gioia, on his Facebook page (we also quoted him in our earlier post here):

Los Angeles Review of Books has published a collection of heartfelt tributes (from me and 18 others, including my brother Dana) to our friend Scott Timberg, a brilliant arts & culture journalist who took his own life last week, leaving behind his wife Sara and 13-year-old son Ian.

I feel compelled to add a few more comments here—because Scott seemed like surrogate member of my family at times, and his passing has left such a mark on me (as it has on so many others—I note that around 600 people have donated to the GoFundMe campaign for his family).

When someone you know commits suicide, the first reaction is disbelief. More than almost any other human act, suicide resists attempts to find meaning in it. Even so, in this case a kind of larger significance has been attached to Scott’s death by many who knew him well—and it started happening almost within hours of his passing. To many of us, his death seemed to have uncanny and disturbing connections with his professional life over the last decade, when he emerged as our leading chronicler and champion of the many people who have lost their bearings in the “culture business”—a group that, for Scott, included everyone from artists and arts journalists like himself all the way to the film lover who once worked at the local video rental store (before it closed) or the minimum-wage clerk at the indie bookstore.

Scott had lost his job at the Los Angeles Times shortly before he turned 40. As an outsider, I was mystified by this turn of events, because Scott was one of the finest arts and culture writers in the country, smart and passionate and capable of delivering insightful articles at short notice on almost any subject. He never recovered his bearings after leaving the Times. Thrust into the turbulent freelance economy, he continued to do outstanding work, but with fewer opportunities and smaller rewards.

He increasingly focused his attention on others like himself who had been squeezed and displaced in the shrinking arts economy. He drew on his own experiences in writing a book on the subject, the harrowing (even more so after his death) Culture Crash, published by Yale University Press.

A different person with Scott’s talents would have reinvented himself in a different career or setting. But Scott loved journalism—he believed it was the highest possible profession, almost a kind of priesthood—and he loved Los Angeles too. He loved them too much perhaps. It may seem like a gross simplification to say that losing his position at the L.A. Times caused his death, but there’s some truth in that. I believe he would still be alive today if he had been able to do the work he was destined to pursue in his adopted hometown.

The narrative that has emerged in the last few days presents Scott as a martyr to the cause he chronicled in his writing. From this perspective, he is the patron saint of the suffering culture professional in the gig economy—and his own death has turned into a commentary on his life. It’s easy to criticize this way of packaging a tragedy that (for me and others) will never lose its sting. But there’s a large dose of truth in it too. All the pieces fit together, almost too well.

More to the point, it gives some small circumference of meaning to something otherwise so meaningless. And, frankly, I suspect Scott would have no disagreement with such a framing of his life and death. He saw the challenges he faced echoed in the lives of so many others, and he cared deeply about all those who suffered in this way. The notion that his abbreviated life might serve as potent symbol for the compassion owed to those squeezed by the shift in our culture, would have given Scott a small bit of gratification. I know it gives me some consolation.

A fan of the Beach Boys? Here’s a poem and video for you: “Every lovesick summer has its song.”

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
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In his year as state poet laureate, Dana Gioia was determined to speak, read, and hold a literary event in every one of California’s 58 counties. And so he did. But that meant a lot of lonely hours on the road for Santa Rosa-based California guy.

Dana chilling in L.A. with Doctor Gatsby (Photo: Starr Black)

Perhaps that’s what brought this poem to mind for one of his newest in the Blank Verse Films series. It’s one of his poems that was driven by sound, which is appropriate for the subject.

“I imagine it already needs footnotes for the young, but I like to think that the experience is nearly universal in our era of entertainment,” he told me. There’s a personal link not mentioned in the poem: he shares a hometown with the Beach Boys outside L.A. – Hawthorne, California, before a freeway ran through it.

Cruising with the Beach Boys

So strange to hear that song again tonight
Travelling on business in a rented car
Miles from anywhere I’ve been before.
And now a tune I haven’t heard for years
Probably not since it last left the charts
Back in L.A. in 1969.
I can’t believe I know the words by heart
And can’t think of a girl to blame them on.

Every lovesick summer has its song,
And this one I pretended to despise,
But if I was alone when it came on,
I turned it up full-blast to sing along –
A primal scream in croaky baritone,
The notes all flat, the lyrics mostly slurred.
No wonder I spent so much time alone
Making the rounds in Dad’s old Thunderbird.

Some nights I drove down to the beach to park
And walk along the railings of the pier.
The water down below was cold and dark,
The waves monotonous against the shore.
The darkness and the mist, the midnight sea,
The flickering lights reflected from the city –
A perfect setting for a boy like me,
The Cecil B. DeMille of my self-pity.

I thought by now I’d left those nights behind,
Lost like the girls that I could never get,
Gone with the years, junked with the old T-Bird.
But one old song, a stretch of empty road,
Can open up a door and let them fall
Tumbling like boxes from a dusty shelf,
Tightening my throat for no reason at all
Bringing on tears shed only for myself.

Tired of angst? Here’s a poem about a happy marriage.

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
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A family reunion at Stanford – with jazz scholar Ted Gioia at right.

Dana Gioia, former National Endowment for the Arts chair and former California poet laureate, met Mary Heicke in the staples department of Stanford Bookstore circa 1977. They have been together ever since – a long marriage indeed, and one of the happiest I know. He commemorated their union recently in a poem, “Marriage of Many Years”:

Most of what happens happens beyond words.
The lexicon of lip and fingertip
defies translation into common speech.
I recognize the musk of your dark hair.
It always thrills me, though I can’t describe it.
My finger on your thigh does not touch skin—
it touches your skin warming to my touch.
You are a language I have learned by heart.

This intimate patois will vanish with us,
its only native speakers. Does it matter?
Our tribal chants, our dances round the fire
performed the sorcery we most required.
They bound us in a spell time could not break.
Let the young vaunt their ecstasy. We keep
our tribe of two in sovereign secrecy.
What must be lost was never lost on us.

In an era that celebrates sturm und drang, poets write of abusive relationships, and the anguish of unrequited love, or the torments of triangular love – but how many write of long and happy fidelity? The late great Richard Wilbur, notably, mocks the romantic conventions and instead praises (read the whole thing here) his marriage

… which, though taken to be tame and staid,
Is a wild sostenuto of the heart,
A passion joined to courtesy and art
Which has the quality of something made,
Like a good fiddle, like the rose’s scent,
Like a rose window or the firmament.

The Gioia marriage has an eyewitness to commemorate it – their son, Mike Gioia – who added it yesterday to his new youtube poetry series, “Blank Verse Films.” (You can subscribe here.)

Dana Gioia goes to hell…

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
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Previous visitors sent back a few postcards…

Dana Gioia is going to hell. And it’s not his first trip, either. Some earlier visits include Dana Gioia‘s blank verse poem Descent to the Underworld:

At first the way is not
Entirely dark. Some daylight filters down
And gives the cave that same bleak iridescence
The sun shows in eclipse. But gradually
The path descends into unending twilight.

And in another, later poem, “Finding a Box of Family Letters,” he wonders:

What does it cost to send a postcard
to the underworld?

.
It’s verging on preoccupation. This time, however, the former National Endowment for the Arts chairman (and more recently, California Poet Laureate) has written a poem of seventeen stanzas – also blank verse. It’s in the current Hudson Review, and begins:

The Underworld

Facilis descensus Averno.
(Descending into Hell is easy.)
—Virgil

I. The Trip

It isn’t difficult to visit Hell,
As long as you can follow the instructions.
Get on the Underground, the Western Line.
Go to the final car. Sit by yourself
In the last row. Don’t talk to anyone.
Don’t exit when you reach the outmost station.
Don’t move—not even when the lights go off.
 

II. The Fare

When the conductor comes to hand out tickets,
There’s a small charge. No money changes hands,
But you must offer something of your own—
Your book, your fountain pen, a lock of hair,
Your smile, perhaps the memory of your mother.
He’ll always notice something that he needs.
Each trade is final. There are no returns.
 

III. The Passengers

There will be other passengers onboard.
Don’t talk to them. They know much less than you.
There’s nothing notable about the damned,
Except how commonplace they seem—a clerk,
An engineer, a carpenter, a thief.
And frankly, they aren’t interested in you.
Sit quietly. Remember why you’ve come.

Read the rest here.

“My dear, my dear, it is not so dreadful here.” (Photo: Starr Black)

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.

Farewell Prof. Herbert Lindenberger (1929-2018), a mentor of “animation and intensity”

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
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He gave “electrifying” lectures.

Herbert Lindenberger  died on October 1 at 89, of multiple myeloma. He was active till a few weeks ago, visiting museums and attending operas.

I met the Stanford professor of English and comparative literature … well, “met” Herbert Lindenberger.. eighteen years ago when I contacted him for a profile of Dana Gioia (you can read it here). He commented on his former student. We’ve spoken by phone more recently, and was a warm and lively presence, but we never got the face-to-face we’d discussed.

He was born in Los Angeles on April 4, 1929. He was a recipient Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Vienna (1952-53), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1968-69), two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships (1975-76, 1982-83), a  Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship (1982-83), a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy (1996), named a “Distinguished Alumnus in the Humanities” at the University of Washington (2006), and a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (elected 2008).

His most recent books are Aesthetics of Discomfort: Conversations on Disquieting Artwith Frederick Luis Aldama (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016) and One Family’s Shoah: Victimization, Resistance, Survival in Nazi Europe (New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Previous books include:  On Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963; Princeton paperback edition, 1966); Georg Büchner, in Crosscurrents/Modern Critiques series (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1964); Georg Trakl, in Twayne World Authors Series (New York: Twayne [now G.K. Hall], 1971); Historical Drama: The Relation of Literature and Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, l975; Phoenix paperback edition, 1978); Saul’s Fall: A Critical Fiction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979); Opera: The Extravagant Art (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984; Cornell paperback edition, 1986); The History in Literature: On Value, Genre, Institutions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990); Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998); Dogstory: A Memoir in HypertextStanford University, April, 1999; Situating Opera: Period, Genre, Reception (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Years ago he commented on Dana. Now it’s time for his former student to comment on him. I sent the news to Dana half an hour ago, and got this reply: “Terrible news. I knew Herbie for nearly half a century. He was a wonderful man.” Dana has known him for half-a-century.

“Herbie Lindenberger was my mentor at Stanford, and we became lifelong friends.  His famous course on Modernism was an intellectual milestone in my life. He was one of the finest teachers I’ve ever known. He brought a level of animation and intensity to the classroom that electrified his students. What good fortune to have known him as a teacher and friend.”

His son Michael Lindenberger posted this: “We recently went through a document he had given us regarding action items to take upon his death. (He was unbelievably organized and prepared for virtually any eventuality.) Regarding communicating with the Stanford English department, where he was a professor for many years, he had written to us, ‘Tell them that when the chair announces my death not to say “passed away” as the last chair did, but simply to use the word “died” and say that if this order is not followed I shall place a hex on the chair from wherever I am.’ That was our dad – candid and humorous even about death. And, as is evidenced by people who have reached out to us over the past 48 hours, it’s clear that his enthusiasm, warmth, humor, and intense intellectual energy were truly infectious. Not a moment of his 89 years was wasted.”

Best American Poetry: the movie and a launch on Thursday, Sept. 20!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018
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We’re on the road (in New York City, in fact), but wanted to let you know about the “Best American Poetry Reading 2018” on Thursday, September 20, at 7 p.m.

The event will take place at the New School’s auditorium (Room A106), the Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall. Series editor David Lehman and Dana Gioia,  guest editor for the Best American Poetry 2018 volume, will headline an all-star cast of poets to launch the volume. I’m told this is an annual rite of fall in New York.

Dana is also former chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts and now California’s poet laureate (and always, always a cherished friend). In the video below, he calls his guest editorship  “a privilege and a challenge.”

The book includes poets we’ve written about before – A.E. Stallings, Kay Ryan, Dick Davis, David Mason, Tracy K. Smith, Robin Coste Lewis and more.

We’ve run an excerpt from his introduction, “A Poet Today is more Likely to be a Barista than a Professor,”  here.

Below a sampler of the Thursday event. It was filmed by Dana’s son, Michael Gioia.

A poet today is more likely to be a barista than a professor.

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018
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Dana Gioia and Doctor Gatsby. (Photo: Star Black)

American poetry is full of contradictory trends. “That’s one reason why the articles announcing poetry’s demise are usually right and wrong at the same time,” says California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, who is also a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He has edited The Best American Poetry 2018. The Los Angeles Review of Books has published an excerpt from his introduction, on the state of American poetry today. As always, Dana has spotted a number of trends that hadn’t quite crystallized in my own thinking – or perhaps, in this case, it’s simply that I live in an academic environment, and the fish doesn’t notice the water.

An excerpt of the excerpt:

The university’s role in poetry may be the most complicated paradox of all. For decades, the expansion of academic writing programs provided a home for poets, first as students and later as instructors. Academia gave thousands of poets secure, paid employment — something unprecedented in the history of Western literature. It was the United States’s version of the imperial Mandarin system, which once employed poets as bureaucrats across China’s vast empire. Our system was even better. Poets got summers off.

Then, like most booms, the surge ended. The university system stopped expanding, especially in the humanities. Job applicants greatly outnumbered job openings. Rather than address the problem by cutting back graduate programs, universities chose to exploit their junior personnel as cost-savings. Tenure-track careers became adjunct gigs with low pay, no benefits, and minimal job security. The academic situation is old news, but it is still awful to young and often not-so-young people trapped in crappy jobs or unemployment. The tale of this city depends on what side of the tenure track a poet lives.

With Dana at the inaugural Sierra Poetry Festival, 2017.

Academia’s problems, however, had an unexpected cultural benefit. The legions of young writers, artists, musicians, and scholars who met with disappointment in the academic job market haven’t all vanished. Most of them just moved. Not finding a place in one world, the academic refugees sought new lives in another. As old bohemian neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan, San Francisco, and other cities were being destroyed by gentrification, tourism, and rising real estate prices, a steady stream of unemployed and underemployed artists helped enlarge or create new communities in places such as Oakland, Austin, Portland, Jersey City, Astoria, and Downtown Los Angeles. Here they joined and revitalized preexisting local communities. Bohemian communities have also emerged in smaller towns, but in such cases their size makes them vulnerable to tourism and development. Witness the stultifying impact of money on Aspen and Carmel or, on a larger scale, the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Thirty years ago, the typical young poet taught in a university. Today’s new generation is more likely to be living in a big city and employed outside academia. They work as baristas, brewers, and bookstore clerks; they also work in business, medicine, and the law. Technology has made it possible to publish books without institutional or commercial support. Social media connects people more effectively than any faculty lounge. An online journal requires nothing but time. An iPhone and a laptop can produce a professional poetry video. Any bookstore, library, cafe, or gallery can host a poetry reading.

New circumstances create interesting possibilities for poets. In the new bohemia, a poet doesn’t need to worry about tenure, peer review, or academic fashions. A poet doesn’t even need a degree. Audience is not an abstract entity; the poet sees a diverse crowd face to face at readings. Those faces are not the same ones found at a research university. The new communities include large parts of the population unlikely to participate in academic literary life because they are blocked by poverty, language, and race. Those groups have brought new perspectives and new energy to literary life. Minority authors and audiences often share a conviction that literature and literacy are fundamental to the identity, advancement, and even survival of their communities. When creating your own literature becomes a life-or-death issue, different sorts of poetry emerge from what one commonly finds in an English department.

The new bohemia is no demi-Eden. Writers struggle to balance their art with practical exigencies. Their situation is complicated but exciting. Existing outside both the academic and market economy makes these poets marginal in society, but their circumstances also give them freedom from commercial and academic conventions. Most boho writers, with or without degrees, probably still dream of snagging a professorship, but they also recognize that as outsider artists they represent an important cultural enterprise. Together they have created a vigorous alternative culture that has broken the university’s monopoly on poetry. They have diversified, democratized, and localized American poetry.

Read the whole thing here (and Dana answers a question in the combox, too).

Postscript on Sept. 6 from David J. Bauman: “I want to be careful to respond to the article and not the headline. It’s actually a very positive and open assessment of where American poets are today and (mostly) why. The only tiny tidbit I question is when Gioia says: “Most boho writers, with or without degrees, probably still dream of snagging a professorship.” I don’t think that’s true. As a public library director, I can honestly say, my interest in joining the university ranks died off long ago. And while he happily argues that today’s young poets don’t need to go the university route, he does not seem to be aware of the fact that many don’t, or even never, wanted to. While I have nothing against MFAs, I still think their biggest blind spot was the fact that there are plenty of artists, poets included, who have zero interest in teaching at a university. It makes sense for many, but it is not a good fit for all. And our poetry as a nation is better for it. I’m happy that folks, including Gioia are waking up to that realization.” (See David’s own blog here.)

Another postscript, on Sept. 10 from essayist, filmmaker Rick Segreda: I don’t blame anybody from fleeing academia these days, hostage as it is to polarized politics, but when have artists in any medium in any age been entitled to live, and live well at that, off their art? This brings to my mind Isaak Dinesen’s gourmet French chef, Babette, who sacrifices her life savings to win over the hearts, minds, and appetites of a puritanical Danish community. At the end, she explains “a true artist is never poor.”

And we missed this Sept. 6 note from the inimitable Jeff Sypeck, in the combox: Good piece by Gioia. Even though he was trying only to describe the situation rather than judge it, I’m inclined to find it a positive development, in the long run, that poetry is no longer confined to the academy. As someone who tries to find spare moments to write and read poetry while holding down an unrelated full-time job and part-time job, I can’t help but think that the profs who have the luxury of being full-time poets should be turning out much better work than they ultimately do. I don’t mean for that to sound as snide as it likely does, especially since I can name several professor-poets whose work is fresh and exuberant, but there tends to be an awfully safe, prim aura about “campus poetry,” hewing as it does to conventions that have had a century to congeal. Anyway, I appreciate Dana Gioia’s generous spirit; I think he’s wise to see that even terrible Instagram poetry holds the promise of new audiences, readers who are hungry for something they can’t quite name.

A poetry prize for Dana Gioia, and a reading in an “otherworldly setting”

Saturday, May 19th, 2018
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Dana Gioia has won so many honors, awards, positions, distinctions, that it’s hard to keep track of them, but we can begin with his current appointment as poet laureate of California, and his earlier appointment as National Endowment of the Arts chair. As of yesterday, he has a new one: he was awarded this year’s Poets’ Prize for 99 Poems: New & Selected (Graywolf). The ceremony took place in New York City’s Nicholas Roerich Museum.

The winning book

“Dana has won many honors, but he has never won one of the ‘major’ poetry prizes,” said R.S. Gwynn, thinking of the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize. “His well known role as an advocate for the arts has perhaps overshadowed his excellence as a poet. Our award is not, however, for lifetime achievement or extra-literary work; it is an award, pure and simple, for what the members of the committee consider the best poetry collection of the year.” (Sam Gwynn is stepping down after ten years as chair of the event. He will be replaced by poet Robert Archambeau, with Marc Vincenz, editor of Plume and MadHat Press, stepping in as the new co-chair. have stepped forward to keep the prize alive.”

A committee of 20 poets selects the winner of the $3,000 prize, which is administered by Lake Forest College. The award is offered annually for the best book of verse published by a living American poet two years prior to the award year. The $3,000 annual prize is donated by a committee of about 20 American poets, who each nominate two books and who also serve as judges. Previous winners include A.E. Stallings, X.J. Kennedy, Marilyn Nelson, and Adrienne Rich. In fact, Dana shared the award with Rich way back in 1992.

I cannot find my own copy of 99 Poems to search for a poem – however, I do have a broadsheet of this one, which is included in the volume. It’s among my personal favorites, and somehow fits the Roerich Museum:

The Stars Now Rearrange Themselves

The stars now rearrange themselves above you
but to no effect. Tonight,
only for tonight, their powers lapse,
and you must look toward earth. There will be
no comets now, no pointing star
to lead you where you know you must go.

Look for smaller signs instead, the fine
disturbances of ordered things when suddenly
the rhythms of your expectation break
and in a moment’s pause another world
reveals itself behind the ordinary.

And one small detail out of place will be
enough to let you know: a missing ring,
a breath, a footfall or a sudden breeze,
a crack of light beneath a darkened door.

The verdict from one of the poets attending the event, Susan de Sola Rodstein: “Wonderful event in an otherworldly setting, with touching tributes to Colette Inez and Dick Allen, and memorable readings by prize-winner Dana Gioia and finalists” – the finalists were James May and John Foy. Susan also took the photos above and below.

Sam Gwynn, Dana Gioia, and Robert Archambeau