Breaking news: Dana Gioia — new feather, new cap


Academia has captured him at last (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Does this man ever sleep?  I’ve come to the conclusion he does not.

On my to-do list for weeks now, I have scribbled down a plan to write a nice, leisurely note to Dana Gioia, following his visit to Palo Alto. But I can’t keep up.  Each time I turn my back he gets a new honor, a new book, a new published poem.  I haven’t even listened to the CD, Tony Caruso’s Final Broadcast, he sent to me yet, and now it’s just been announced that that he has taken an endowed chair at the University of Southern California — the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture.  The chair is reserved for eminent individuals from the arts, sciences, professions, business and community leadership.

What could be more fitting? Think of his “Can Poetry Matter?” essay that launched a nationwide discussion of poetry.  Dana’s university-wide appointment includes affiliations with the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, its Thornton School of Music, its Marshall School of Business, and its School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

But he has avoided so many academic appointments in the past, this comes rather as a surprise.  I hadn’t a clue until Ted Gioia‘s announcement of his brother’s honor on his own Facebook page.  Not so much of a surprise, perhaps, is the SoCal locale — Dana was born, after all, in the gritty little burg of Hawthorne, outside Los Angeles.

Said Provost Elizabeth Garrett, senior vice president for academic affairs: “As a poet, literary critic, and innovative arts leader, Dana Gioia has demonstrated that poetry—and the arts—do matter. Through initiatives like Poetry Out Loud and The Big Read, he forcefully reminded us that poetry and literature can be oral art forms, inspiring people of all ages to imagine and to think creatively and critically.”

It will be great to have Dana on the West Coast again.  Perhaps he can catch a nap now?

Postscript on Nov. 6:  I spoke too soon.  When I got home last night, I found in my mailbox Dana’s newest effort, John Donne’s Sacred and Profane Poems, for which Dana wrote a 20-page introduction.  “He alone was master of both the sacred and profane,” Dana writes, though he notes James I’s criticism of the poems, that they “are like the peace of God; they pass all understanding.”  Hadn’t heard that one.


One Response to “Breaking news: Dana Gioia — new feather, new cap”

  1. Roseanne Sullivan Says:

    In the essay I had to write as part of qualifying for my M.A. with an emphasis in creative writing, I wrote something along the lines of how Donne started out a poet of the profane and ended up as a poet of the sacred. Funny thing, one of the professors who graded the exam thought my insight was very apt and another thought it was trite.

    I just had a irreverent thought about “Batter me three-personed God”; Is Donne asking God to get him ready for the tempura frying pan? But I digress.I really do like that poem. Did you know that when Donne was an Anglican cleric he would give sermons that would last for an hour or more? Old St. Paul’s (a formerly Catholic church from the 11th C) , where he was dean was the place for courtiers and people in the know to be on Sunday mornings. People used to go from one church to the other and compare sermons. The sermon was the high point of the service, since the Eucharist was celebrated only twice a month.