Dana Gioia

poet laureate icon
1950 –
Poet Laureate of California, 2015-

Dana Gioia was born in Hawthorne, California, on December 24, 1950. He received a BA from Stanford University. Before returning to Stanford to earn an MBA, he completed an MA in comparative literature at Harvard University, where he studied with the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Fitzgerald. In 1977, Gioia moved to New York to begin a career in business. For fifteen years Gioia worked as a businessman, eventually becoming a vice president of General Foods. In 1992, after publishing his first book of poetry, Daily Horoscope (Graywolf Press), in 1986, he left business to become a full-time writer.

Gioia is the author of several poetry collections, including 99 Poems: New & Selected (Graywolf Press, 2016); Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001), winner of the American Book Award; The Gods of Winter (Graywolf Press, 1991); and Daily Horoscope (Graywolf Press, 1986).

Gioia’s collection of criticism, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (Graywolf Press, 1992), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. Since then, Gioia has published two other collections of criticism: Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (Graywolf Press, 2004) and Barrier of a Common Language: An American Looks at Contemporary British Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2003). He has also written an opera libretto titled Nosferatu, translated Eugenio Montale’s Mottetti (Graywolf Press, 1990), and coedited two anthologies of Italian poetry and four of the nation’s best-selling college literature textbooks.

Gioia has cofounded two major literary conferences. In 1995, he helped create the West Chester University summer conference on Form and Narrative, which is now the largest annual poetry-writing conference in the United States. In 2001, he began “Teaching Poetry,” a conference in Santa Rosa, California, dedicated to improving the teaching of poetry in high schools. Gioia has also taught as a visiting writer at Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Mercer and Wesleyan universities. From 2003 to 2009, Gioia served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2015, he was appointed poet laureate of California. He lives in Sonoma County, California, with his wife and two sons.