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Stanford's Commencement '07 Speaker: Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia, renowned poet, literary critic, and chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts since 2003 will be Stanford’s Commencement speaker this year. Gioia (pronounced “Joy – a”) was born in Los Angeles of Italian and Mexican heritage on December 24, 1950. The first member of his family to attend college, Gioia received a B.A. with high honors from Stanford University in 1973, and M.A. from Harvard University in 1975, and an M.B.A. from Stanford in 1977. Gioia pursued a successful career in business for many years, working at General Foods till 1992, when he decided to devote his full-time energies to writing.

Gioia has been recognized for his role in reviving rhyme, meter and narrative in contemporary poetry. Deliberately departing from the writings of the Beat and Confessional poets, Gioia’s finely-crafted poetry renders accessible for his readers observations of our material and spiritual existence. As he writes in “The Stars Now Rearrange Themselves . . .” (from Daily Horoscope),

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

As one critic has put it “Dana Gioia is probably the most interesting poet to have emerged in the United States since the 1980s. He clearly thinks about the craft and role of the poet, and because he thinks critically, he has become a highly controversial figure.”[1] In Gioia’s essay “Can Poetry Matter?,” which was originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1991 and later as the title essay in a collection, he polemically argues that poetry needs to move beyond the insular confines of the academy if it is to play a vital role in contemporary American culture. He writes:

It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture. There is nothing to lose. Society has already told us that poetry is dead. Let's build a funeral pyre out of the desiccated conventions piled around us and watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.[2]

As Stanford University’s graduating students prepare to leave the classroom and engage with the wider world, Dana Gioia will no doubt be an inspiring and challenging speaker.

Learn more about Dana Gioia

Research and Reading




    1. "(Michael) Dana Gioia." Contemporary Poets, 7th ed. St. James Press, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007.
    2. Gioia, Dana. “Can Poetry Matter?” The Atlantic Monthly, May 1991.

Submitted by Annette Keogh, Curator for British and American Literature

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Gioia's brother Ted

From Lauren Scott, Systems Integration Manager, SULAIR:

I saw your announcement in SULAIR News of the Dana Gioia website.

It looks great! I think it's really exciting to see the library doing things like this.

Here's an interesting tidbit.

Dana is the older brother of Ted Gioia, a music historian (and also a very interesting person). The Stanford Magazine did a recent article on Ted.

So kind of an interesting sidebar/note; especially since they are both Stanford alums....

- Lauren

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