He’s an internationally known poet visiting Santa Barbara County this week as part of a big mission: To make poetry interesting and accessible to everyone, not just academics. Dana Gioia is California’s Poet Laureate.
His background is as interesting as his poetry, taking him on a unique path to becoming who he is today. He went to college, and loved poetry, but to make a living, he became a business executive eventually rising to be a Vice President and food giant General Mills. Gioia eventually he took the leap to pursue his poetry full-time.
In the 1990’s, he wrote a controversial essay about the accessibility of poetry which help put him on the literary map.
In 2003, Gioia put his poetry on a back burner to help the nation’s arts efforts. President George W. Bush nominated the poet to serve as Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, a tough job considering that arts funding was under fire. He actually helped win spending increases during his six year tenure.
One of the most famous initiatives under his guidance is the “One City, One Book” initiative, a still thriving program which tries to get people in communities to read the same book, and then talk about them.
His effort right now as State Poet Laureate is to help bring poetry to every corner of the state, by doing a program in every county. As of this week, he’s visited 55 of the state’s 58 counties. Gioia’s tour finally comes to Santa Barbara County this week.
He’ll appear at an event in Santa Barbara, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Gioia will be joined by some local poets as well The event begins at 5:30 Thursday night.