Thursday, March 09, 2006
Here is a job posting for a “Literature Specialist.” It is at the National Endowment for the Arts, currently chaired by renowned poet/critic Dana Gioia.
I can think of many words to describe Dana Gioia, but “renowned” would never have occurred to me. Middlebrow, culturally conservative, neo-formalist, nostalgic, sentimental, suburban . . .
"Infamous” is how I took it, Joseph.
Sorry, what did Dana Gioia do that was so awful, if I may ask? (I’m just friends with Mark, so I feel I should go out on a limb here.)
He’s a very controversial figure in poetry who has set himself against both conventional MFA programs and avant-garde poetics. (So he must be correct, right?) If you would like to get a flavor of the stew (this version prepared a la leftist conspiracy-mongering), there is this link.
Lawrence, I don’t think it’s fair to describe that piece, mild and accurate even by Believer standards, as “leftist conspiracy-mongering.”
There is a suggestion in it, I think, that one of the purposes of the MBA-poetry cabal is to squash the political potential of poetry, a potential that had some realization in the Hamill protest. Evans in general too quickly translates between aesthetics & politics.
But outside of that issue, I actually agree w/most of the positions the Evans piece takes, & found it quite informative.
& there was also the explicit suggestion that the Lilly donation to Poetry was meant as a smoke screen for the legislation that exempted Lilly from lawsuits. This seems a stretch. These folks are capable of anything, but they usually just go & do it. No need for misdirection.
One may disagree with Gioia’s ideas and question the quality of his poetry, but with the accolades and awards he has garnered over the years, the word “renowned” is accurate. As for the cultural values of the Bush Administration, I would set its appointments to cultural agencies up against those of any prior administration, at least on intellectual and scholarly grounds. The resumes of Gioia and Bruce Cole at NEH are impressive.
Just wondering: Was my comment in response to John Holbo, upthread, deemed inappropriate, or did the system merely fail to register it?
I’m sure that it was a glitch in our comment moderation system. Please repost it.
I’d said something to the effect that Gioia knows how to work a room. I’ve seen him in action at AWP & other venues. The New Formalism was as much about wanting to be in charge of something as it was about aesthetics. Now he’s got his wish.
Additionally, I do not think Gabriel Gudding’s essay, linked above, is “leftist conspiracy-mongering” & even if it is, you can drop the conspiracy part out & still have a very accurate map of the American poetry world as it exists at the beginning of the 21st century. It’s a world I’ve been immersed in for 35 years & Gudding’s essay tracks my experience & perception very effectively--especially the part about the MBA poets’ desire to devalue the cultural capital of the various progressive elements, movements, schools, etc. While using the power of federally funded & privately endowed institutions to build their own cultural capital, investing it in a fundamentally nostalgic vision of American poetry. John Barr is certainly right--he & Gioia do know how to read a balance sheet.