Postscript on Dana Gioia – beyond the “businessman, statesman, poet”


At Stanford commencement, 2007 (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

Dana Gioia has been making the rounds: on April 26, he gave a reading from his new collection, Pity the Beautiful, at The Corner Bookstore in Manhattan (93rd Street and Madison Avenue).

David Sanders‘s Poetry News in Review, now included in the electronic pages of the Prairie Schooner here, tipped me off on where to find the text of poet David Lehman‘s introduction to the reading that night, titled “The Businessman, the Statesman, and the Poet.”

I’m glad for the opportunity to include an excerpt the day before Dana’s appearance at Kepler’s in Menlo Park, (Wednesday, May 2nd, at 7 p.m.)  It wouldn’t do to talk about Dana without mentioning his personal generosity.

In his introduction, Lehman,  editor for The Best American Poetry series, praises Dana’s “unflagging energy and stringent work ethic [that] remain an inspiration to his friends” – true, true – then describes his ambitious agenda as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.  “It is safe to say that not since Archibald MacLeish headed the Library of Congress has a poet worked so hard, and accomplished so much of value, in so prominent a position in the federal government.”

Lehman continues:

“I like to remember the day in 2003 when Dana came to New York and we had coffee at the Cornelia Street Café. Dana told me about the National Book Festival he was organizing for the fall and he asked me to help him make a presentation of American poetry. There would be a brunch at the White House that my wife, Stacey, and I could attend. I said: My mother – It would mean a lot to her, a holocaust refugee, then 88, to come. Dana took the cell phone out of his pocket and made a call and five minutes later my mother was on the guest list. The day we visited the White House was one of the happiest days in her life, and for that I will always have Dana to thank.”

Read the whole thing here.

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