The Poet who saved the NEA

Here’s a great article on Dana Gioia, the chairman for the . He’s a poet and is the creative force behind such great projects as “Poetry Out Loud” which I featured on Cloudy Day Art #65.

Some of you probably believe that the NEA’s take on poetry is probably too upscale for the average American, but at the same time Mr. Gioia and crew have done a lot of work to get poetry out of the academics and into everyday society. The Poetry Out Loud project is just one small example.

“…Gioia found he disliked the cloistered academic world and the fact that he was being trained to write a kind of poetry his own family would never enjoy. “It’s bad as a society if you have all your poets at a university. There should be a broader life experience open to writers,” he says. “I was being taught a professional language that was spoken by about 600, 700 people in the world.”

When he decided to leave Harvard to study business at Stanford, most of his professors couldn’t understand his decision to abandon a promising academic career. But Gioia saw himself following poets like T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, who had worked in commerce and wrote on the side. His questions about the system would crystallize in one of his most famous and debated writings, a 1991 essay for The Atlantic, “Can Poetry Matter?” in which he argues the form has become too elitist.”

The NEA has received a lot of bad press for the “art” that it has endorsed over the years, but perhaps Mr. Gioia is changing that perception–one poet at a time.

Will Brown

Will Brown is a poet, blogger, and a scanner of all things new. He also currently blogs at Help Desk Helps where he discusses tips and issues affecting the help desk professional.

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