Dana Gioia Interview

Another Federalist Radio House piece if you are interested: a Dana Gioia Interview, speaking on the enchantment of poetry and American Literary Culture. I appreciate how he points out that so often we are trained to write in ways that people no longer read resulting in the paradox that so many are “paid to profess poetry,” but so often poets write to other poets rather than the public.

Is writing just for writers? Who do you write for? Or, when you encourage others, what are you encouraging them toward?



While Dana Gioia speaks about the pariochialism of modern education, that is, the inner circle solidifying an inner circle, it’s encouraging to consider “the populist revival” as he put it. Poems used to be known by heart like so many now know song lyrics, and the same drive exists today. It’s a matter of what we give to fuel that drive.

I think of theology in a somewhat similar way. We all have a drive to be certain, even if that certainty is sometimes wasted on the sentiment, “It won’t matter or make a difference.” But just as poetry was (badly) taught for morality, formality, discipline, etc., so can theology be so oversimplified and made into mere teachings of men. Yet theology living in the Word breathes the very Spirit of God, teaches us how to speak, and fills us with a complete range of emotions and perceptions.

It may not make writing any easier. Are we writing according to training or personalizing it to our audience? Is our audience exclusionary (which isn’t bad: textbooks are for particular classes)? Does how we write or phrase certain things, though, to create, feed, or expand an inner circle?

Actually, I think there is room for all three of those, 1) cultivating specialization, 2) tending to the specialists, and 3) bringing the subject matter to others. Poets can write for poets! Though if all of us keep writing, let’s try to have something for everyone on everything!


Filed under As Christian Writers, Poetry, Writer's Life

3 Responses to Dana Gioia Interview

  1. Theresa Kiihn

    Thank you for linking to this interview! Dana Gioia is a favorite of mine, both as a poet and as a writer. His discussion on the vocation of writing has been a huge influence to me as a writer.

  2. I too thank you for this link, Mary J! I wish I had known about Dana Gioia and his philosophy about poetry long ago; this was truly inspiring!

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