poem index

About this poet

On December 24, 1950, Dana Gioia was born in Hawthorne, CA. He received a BA from Stanford University. Before returning to Stanford to earn an MBA, he completed an MA in Comparative Literature at Harvard University where he studied with the poets Robert Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Bishop. In 1977 he moved to New York to begin a career in business. For fifteen years Gioia worked as a businessman, eventually becoming a Vice President of General Foods. In 1992 he left business to become a full-time writer.

Gioia is the author of Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf, 2001), winner of the American Book Award; The Gods of Winter (1991); and Daily Horoscope (1986).

His critical collection, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (Graywolf, 1992), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award in Criticism. Since then, Gioia has published two other collections of criticism, Barrier of a Common Language: An American Looks at Contemporary British Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2003) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (Graywolf Press, 2004).

He has also written an opera libretto, Nosferatu, translated Eugenio Montale's Mottetti, co-edited two anthologies of Italian poetry and four of the nation's best-selling college literature textbooks.

Gioia has co-founded two major literary conferences. In 1995 he helped create the West Chester University summer conference on Form and Narrative, which is now the largest annual poetry-writing conference in the U.S. In 2001 he began "Teaching Poetry," a conference in Santa Rosa, California, dedicated to improving high school teaching of poetry. He has also taught as a visiting writer at Colorado College, Johns Hopkins, Sarah Lawrence, Mercer, and Wesleyan University.

Gioia is currently serving as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia lives in Sonoma County, California, with his wife and two sons.

Words

Dana Gioia, 1950
The world does not need words. It articulates itself 
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path 
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being. 
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other--
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands 
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow 
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot 
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica. 
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper--
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa 
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds, 
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving 
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it. 
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always-- 
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

Copyright © 2001 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted from Interrogations at Noon with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia

Born in Hawthorne, CA in 1950, Dana Gioia is the author of Interrogations at Noon, winner of the American Book Award

by this poet

poem
Sometimes a child will stare out of a window
for a moment or an hour—deciphering
the future from a dusky summer sky.

Does he imagine that some wisp of cloud
reveals the signature of things to come?
Or that the world’s a book we learn to translate?

And sometimes a girl stands naked by a mirror
imagining beauty