California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia Unites California Through Art

Dana Gioia recites from his recent book, 99 Poems: New & Selected, at the Gathering of California Poets Laureate in Tujunga on October 6. Photo by Farah Sosa.

SACRAMENTO – California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia has completed his two-year term as “the Governor’s advocate for the art of poetry,” finishing an ambitious statewide tour to all 58 counties across California this week.

The poet and former chair for the National Endowment for the Arts reached his final destination of Kings County on Tuesday, after more than two years, 16 flights and 17,000 miles on the road traveling to every part of the state to share his love of poetry and celebrate the creativity found among local residents. Area artists of all disciplines were regularly involved in the events, promoting an exchange of ideas, creative connection, and collaboration—Gioia appeared with more than 500 individuals over the course of 116 events statewide.

Each California Poet Laureate takes on a significant cultural project, with one of its goals being to bring poetry to those who might otherwise have little exposure. As his project, Gioia’s county tour was an incredible achievement to that end.

“My aim as California poet laureate was to reach the whole state, not just the literary centers,” said Gioia. “Visiting every county in this huge state to create events with local writers was not just an adventure—it was fun. I traveled through astonishing landscapes, and everywhere I went, big town or small, I met poets, musicians, and artists. Serving as laureate has been one of the great experiences of my life.”

Earlier this month, Gioia added another ambitious undertaking to his role, uniting more than 60 city, county, regional and state laureates, past and present, in a historic gathering and group reading at the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga. The event was the first large-scale gathering of California’s laureates since the termed position of state poet laureate was first established in 2001.

At the gathering, the California Arts Council commemorated Gioia’s achievements with a proclamation in recognition of his outstanding service to the state.

“We are extremely grateful to Dana for all his efforts in his role as poet laureate, which have been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Anne Bown-Crawford, California Arts Council Executive Director. “His unique perspective and tireless dedication demystifies poetry for the uninitiated and galvanizes creative energy for all. Poets and the public alike have come together, time and again, under his guidance and because of his passion. Californians, and the art of poetry, have both been elevated by his service.”

Dana Gioia served as “poetry’s public servant” from his appointment by Governor Jerry Brown in December 2015 until October 2018. More information on Dana Gioia’s work as laureate can be found at the California Poet Laureate website.

Future appointments will be announced by the Governor’s Office.

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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 Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Donn K. Harris, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at

Kimberly Brown

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