Capitol Alert

Dana Gioia named California Poet Laureate

Dana Gioia at the 2014 Poetry Out Loud State Finals at the California Capitol.
Dana Gioia at the 2014 Poetry Out Loud State Finals at the California Capitol. Courtesy of the California Arts Council

California has found its next poet laureate: Dana Gioia, a professor of poetry and public culture at the University of Southern California and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday announced Gioia’s appointment as the state’s advocate for poetry and creative expression, who during a two-year term is required to perform public readings throughout the state and undertake a “significant cultural project” that brings poetry to students who might not otherwise be exposed to it. He follows Juan Felipe Herrera, who finished his term last year and was named the U.S. Poet Laureate in June.

“I believe that poetry is for everyone,” Gioia said in a statement. “It is not a remote or intellectual art. Poetry is our most concise, expressive, and memorable way of using words, and it can play a powerful role in schools and civic life. I am honored to become poetry’s public servant in California.”

A native of Hawthorne and resident of Santa Rosa, Gioia, 64, began his career in business at the General Foods Corporation before widespread acclaim for his 1991 Atlantic Monthly essay “Can Poetry Matter?” convinced him to pursue writing full-time. He won the 2002 American Book Award for his collection Interrogations at Noon and helped compile the anthology California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present, published in 2003.

From 2003 to 2009, Gioia led the National Endowment for the Arts, where he created the Poetry Out Loud recitation contest for high school students and launched a project to collect writings about the wartime experience from returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and their families. Gioia, a Republican, was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President George W. Bush in 2008.

The California Poet Laureate requires confirmation by the state Senate and receives an annual stipend of $5,000 from the California Arts Council.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff