Acclaimed poet and past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Book Review, and he is a frequent BBC Radio commentator on American culture and literature. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was vice president of marketing for General Foods. In 2011 Gioia became Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California and from 2015-2018, he was the State Poet Laureate of California. He holds degrees from Harvard and Stanford Universities.
Trained in music, Gioia's work has been set to music by many composers in genres from classical to rock, including a full-length dance theater piece, "Counting the Children." He has written the libretto for Nosferatu, an opera, with composer Alva Henderson, which was published by Graywolf in 2001.
Gioia is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, German and Romanian. In 2001 he founded "Teaching Poetry," a conference dedicated to improving high school teaching of poetry. He is the founder and co-director of the West Chester University summer conference of Form and Narrative, the nation's largest annual all-poetry writing conference. Along with being vice president of the Poetry Society of America and serving on the boards of numerous arts organizations, Gioia has taught as a visiting writer at several universities, including Johns Hopkins University and Wesleyan University.
In early 2002, Gioia was selected as a winner of the 23rd annual American Book Awards for his third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001). Gioia read from that collection on Volume 51 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, and was featured discussing the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Volume 53 of the Journal. Gioia's poetry has been praised in the American Book Review by Matthew Brennan for "keeping the lyric impulse alive and well."
Gioia first gained national attention in 1991 when the Atlantic Monthly published his provocative essay "Can Poetry Matter?" The article, which argued for a place for poetry in "American public culture," garnered more letters of response than any article the magazine had published in decades. Many of the letters replied negatively to Gioia's thesis: while poetry had become increasingly important over the last few decades among academics and specialists, he wrote, it had decreased in importance and accessibility for the general public. After tracing the migration of poetry and poets from Greenwich Village to the Ivory Tower, Gioia offered several proposals for returning the art to the public. These included using radio to expand the art's audience, and mixing poetry with other arts at public readings. "Can Poetry Matter?" has been re-issued in the tenth-anniversary edition of the book by the same name, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (Graywolf Press, 2002).