California Arts Council

State of California
 

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Contact:
December 04, 2015Caitlin Fitzwater
916-533-8623

caitlin.fitzwater@arts.ca.gov

Governor Brown Appoints Dana Gioia as California Poet Laureate

Internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts to serve the state of California through poetry and creative expression

Dana Gioia
Pictured: Dana Gioia at the California Arts Council's 2014 Poetry Out Loud State Finals at the state Capitol. (Photo credit: Jay R. Hart) DOWNLOAD

SACRAMENTO -- Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today appointed Dana Gioia as California Poet Laureate.

The role of the California Poet Laureate is to spread the art of poetry and creative expression from classrooms to boardrooms across the state, to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists and enthusiasts, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced our great state through creative literary expression. 

"I believe that poetry is for everyone," said Gioia. "It is not a remote or intellectual art. Poetry is our most concise, expressive, and memorable way of using words, and it can play a powerful role in schools and civic life. I am honored to become poetry's public servant in California."

Over the course of a two-year term, the California Poet Laureate provides public readings and engagement in urban and rural locations across the state, educates civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression, and undertakes a significant cultural project.

"Governor Brown's appointment of Dana Gioia as California Poet Laureate brings into state service someone already uniquely known for his great capacity for public service having served as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. 

Watson continued, "Dana will bring the voice of a native son of California to his new role, and he'll also help our state's young people learn to explore and develop their own voices - just as he did when he created the Poetry Out Loud high school recitation program while at the NEA - a program which has greatly impacted California's young people for ten years."

Gioia succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera who served in the position from 2012 to 2014 and now serves as United States Poet Laureate.

Upon learning of Gioia's appointment, Juan Felipe Herrera stated, "I feel effervescent about this appointment. Dana is a highly spirited visionary who gets things done. He has a broad and deep vision for all our peoples in California, and as a poet he includes people in a very energetic and creative way that will benefit ourselves, our communities, and our state at large."

Herrera added, "We need a California Poet Laureate like Dana right now. We just had a painful tragedy in the Inland Empire. We need a voice and a visionary to inspire us, to write, to help us express ourselves, to find a way through the complexities and challenges that we face -- especially for our youth. I know Dana's voice will benefit us all."

About Dana Gioia

Gioia, 64, of Santa Rosa, has been the Judge Widney professor of poetry and public culture at the University of Southern California since 2011.

GIoia was born in Hawthorne, California, the son of a Sicilian father and a Mexican mother. He attended Junipero Serra High School in Gardena and became the first person in his family to attend college.

As chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2009, Gioia launched several nationwide programs to expand public support for the arts and for arts education, with a focus on fostering youth creativity and expression. These initiatives include the Poetry Out Loud contest for high school students, the Big Read program to promote community reading initiatives across the country and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, a project to support returning troops and their families.

For ten years, the California Arts Council has played host to the largest Poetry Out Loud program in the nation, with more than 30,000 high school students participating annually. Gioia has joined the Arts Council as a special guest as several state final events.

In 2003, Gioia co-edited the anthology California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present as part of the California Legacy Project. The collection, which has been praised by the Los Angeles Times Review of Books and California State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr, features poetry from 101 authors and explores California's cultural history, a prominent theme in Gioia's writings.

The California native's body of work has received wide critical acclaim, including his 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter? which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award and triggered national discussion on the role of poetry in American public culture. Gioia is also a winner of the American Book Award and was honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2008 for his public service in support of the arts.

He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University, a Master of Arts degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University. 

About the California Poet Laureate Position

The position of California Poet Laureate was established as a part of the California Government Code in 2001 through AB 113 authored by Assemblymember Fran Pavley. Through this bill, the California Arts Council is designated to recommend individuals to the Governor for the position of the state's Poet Laureate. The Governor chooses the poet, and the Senate approves the appointment. Under this law, the Poet Laureate no longer holds the title for life as in the last century, but instead serves a two-year term (depending on confirmation date by the Senate) and is limited to two terms.

The role of the California Poet Laureate is to spread the art of poetry from classrooms to boardrooms across the state, to inspire an emerging generation of literary artists and enthusiasts, and to educate all Californians about the many poets and authors who have influenced our great state through creative literary expression. 

Over the course of a two-year term, the Poet Laureate provides six public readings in urban and rural locations across the state, educates civic and state leaders about the value of poetry and creative expression, and undertakes a significant cultural project. One of the goals of the project must be to bring the poetic arts to students who might otherwise have little opportunity to be exposed to poetry.

Past California Poets Laureate

1915 - 1928  Ina Donna Coolbrith
1929 - 1931  Dr. Henry Meade Bland
1933 - 1944  John Steven McGroarty
1953 - 1961  Gordon W. Norris
1966 - 2000  Charles Garrigus
2005 - 2008  Al Young
2008 - 2011  Carol Muske-Dukes
2012 - 2014  Juan Felipe Herrera

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The Mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.


Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Susan Steinhauser, Michael Alexander, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Nashormeh Lindo, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.

 






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