Guest piece from Writers Forum Newsletter Editor George T. Parker.
Yesterday’s lunchtime visit with California’s Poet Laureate was time well spent. Several Writers Forum members were in attendance, along with an audience of about fifty or sixty, to hear Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-ya) recite pieces from his latest book 99 Poems: New & Selected, and to explain his views on writing poetry for everybody.
Gioia’s ambition as Poet Laureate,as well as during his tenure as the Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003-2009, is to take poetry out of academia and make it available for everybody. He insists that poetry is in the interests of ordinary people, not just English majors at universities, and as evidence, he points out the enormous popularity of such poetic forms as hip hop, rap, and cowboy poetry.
Gioia was interviewed by Nathan Solis at the Redding Record Searchlight. You can find the interview here.
Gioia reminded us of the charm of recited poetry. Words on a page take on a new life when spoken. For example, the first stanza of his poem ‘Finding a Box of Family Letters’ reads:
The dead say little in their letters
they haven’t said before.
We find no secrets, and yet
how different every sentence sounds
heard across the years.
Now listen to the same piece recited:
Hearing the words brings the piece to life, and helps to teach us how to read and hear other poetry. Learning poetry can only help to enhance our other writing, as well, teaching us meter and cadence of the language. Poetry can also teach us how to refine the language of our other writing.
Find a poet you like, and learn!