Gioia’s work has become a great source of personal inspiration. His texts are often engaging accounts of the human experience, expressing universal and complex emotions expertly captured in verse. Gioia’s “Pentecost,” written after the death of his young son, is a gripping reflection on tragedy and loss. Supremely painful and heartrending, this poem is filled with powerful imagery and pointed text. As in many of his works, the sound of Gioia’s word choice and phrasing lends itself to a musical pairing.
Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. A native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent, Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh) received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Gioia has published three full-length collections of poetry, as well as eight chapbooks. His poetry collection, Interrogations at Noon, won the 2002 American Book Award. An influential critic as well, Gioia's 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture.
Gioia's many literary anthologies include Twentieth-Century American Poetry, 100 Great Poets of the English Language, The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction, and Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. His poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, and The Hudson Review. Gioia has written opera libretti and is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, and German. As Chairman of the NEA, Gioia succeeded in garnering enthusiastic bi-partisan support in the United States Congress for the mission of the Arts Endowment, as well as in strengthening the national consensus in favor of public funding for the arts and arts education. (Business Week Magazine referred to him as "The Man Who Saved the NEA.") Gioia has been the recipient of ten honorary degrees. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons.
© Dana Gioia, www.danagioia.com
Neither the sorrows of afternoon, waiting in the silent house,
Nor the night no sleep relieves, when memory
Repeats its prosecution.
Nor the morning's ache for dream's illusion, nor any prayers
Improvised to an unknowable god
Can extinguish the flame.
We are not as we were. Death has been our pentecost,
And our innocence consumed by these implacable
Tongues of fire.
Comfort me with stones. Quench my thirst with sand.
I offer you this scarred and guilty hand
Until others mix our ashes.
© 2001 by Dana Gioia
Poem appears in Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press - Saint Paul, MN)