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Gov. Jerry Brown Names Dana Gioia, Former Chairman of the NEA, California Poet Laureate

    Dana Gioia, California's new poet laureate, headed the National Endowment for the Arts for six years. (The Aspen Institute / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Dana Gioia, California’s new poet laureate, headed the National Endowment for the Arts for six years. (The Aspen Institute / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced earlier this month that Dana Gioia would take over the Golden State post, replacing Juan Felipe Herrera, who recently became U.S. poet laureate.

From ABC News:

Gioia, a California native who turns 65 later this month, headed the NEA from 2003 to 2009 and has long advocated making poetry more accessible to the general public and teaching it in schools. His initiatives at the NEA included the national student contest Poetry Out Loud. … Since returning from Washington, Gioia has taught poetry and public culture at the University of Southern California, not far from his hometown of Hawthorne. He has continued to write poetry and has a collection, “99 Poems: New & Selected,” coming in March. During a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, Gioia said that when he left the NEA he had vowed never to run an organization again, public or private, but was open to a job that would allow him to concentrate on poetry.

“There’s no distance between my personal identity and my civic identity and that’s a lovely place to be,” he said of the new position.

The California laureate, formally established in 2001 and subject to approval by the state senate, receives a $5,000 annual stipend and works with the arts council. Gioia said he hoped to visit counties statewide that participated in Poetry Out Loud and to pay special attention to small and mid-sized communities.

“My life changed for the better by falling in love with poetry,” he told the AP. “It made me a better student, made me a more alert human being. And I’d like to try to bring the gifts of poetry to the broadest audience possible.”

Read more.

Here’s a snippet from one of Gioia’s California-themed poems, titled “California Hills in August”:

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

… And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain –
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

To read more of Gioia’s poetry, visit

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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