Dana Gioia on Becoming an Information Billionaire | Conversations with Tyler
In this intriguing conversation, Dana Gioia, a former corporate executive turned poet, shares his unique journey from the world of business to the realm of poetry.
He discusses his approach to writing, the role of art in society, and the importance of understanding and appreciating poetry.
Narrative: A Vital Element in Art
Gioia discusses the transformation of arts during the modern movement, noting a bias against narrative.
He argues that humanity needs stories, and the deprivation of narrative in our culture has had a significant human cost, including loss of creativity, productivity, and even leading to suicide and drug use.
My desire has always been to write a poem that my fellow poets will say, ‘Gee, that’s really well made, that’s really a nice work,’ but is really registered to speak to a broad mix of humanity. And there’s an assumption in the university that the common reader, the average person is stupid. And I hate to say this in public, but the center of human intelligence, the epicenter of human intellectuality is not the English department. – Dana Gioia
Poets’ Role in Opera
Gioia discusses the role of poets in opera, arguing that opera still requires the skills of a poet to create elevated, concise, and lyrical language and stories.
He suggests that the quality of a libretto can greatly influence the success of an opera.
Memorizing Poetry: A Path to Understanding
Gioia strongly advocates for memorizing poetry as the only way to truly understand it.
He believes that learning poetry by heart allows one to internalize its meaning and appreciate its indirect, intuitive, and even physical aspects.
My advantage and it was a disadvantage when I was an entry-level person, I was really at a disadvantage being a creative person. I was very good at numbers so I could fake my way through. But with each promotion at General Foods, actually the particular skills I had which was in a sense of reconceptualizing things, taking a solution that people have, breaking it apart and creating a new solution. – Dana Gioia
Virgil’s Influence on Early Christianity
Gioia discusses the influence of Virgil on early Christianity, arguing that understanding Virgil is crucial to understanding early Christian thought.
He suggests that Virgil’s work was interpreted by early Christians as prophetic, which helped to preserve the classical tradition and shape the philosophical, theological, and artistic tradition of Catholicism.
Lyrics: The Soul of Opera
Gioia emphasizes the importance of creating lyrics that a singer can inhabit.
He explains that when writing lyrics for an opera libretto, it needs to work as a poem, be set to music, and be something that the singer can embody during the performance.
Comparing Operas and Musicals
Gioia believes that classic musicals like Showboat and Annie Get Your Gun have tremendously fine lyrics, which he finds lacking in contemporary musicals and operas.
He emphasizes that all elements of an opera need to work together for it to be successful.
Brian Wilson’s Contribution to Music
Gioia discusses the work of Brian Wilson, a lyricist from his hometown.
He appreciates Wilson’s transformation of the popular song and his creation of a genre that encapsulates a vision of California as the American dream.
However, he also acknowledges the tragic and melancholic undertones in Wilson’s songs.
Underrated Art Museums
Gioia shares his thoughts on underrated art museums.
He believes that the Hermitage is probably the most underrated because a significant portion of its art is usually out on loan.
He also mentions the Bob Jones Junior University gallery, which has an incredible collection of Italian Baroque art that is not widely known or visited.