Dana Gioia, Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture, was named the recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry on Tuesday.
Gioia will be presented with his award on Feb. 19 at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. The University of the South, which administers the award, cited Gioia’s poems as well as his impact on poetry in its decision to grant him the award.
“He, more than any other poet chosen [for the award] in 28 years, has supported poetry in more roles than just as a writer,” said Leigh Anne Couch, managing editor of the Sewanee Review. “In his time with the [National Endowment for the Arts] and as [a] teacher, he has highlighted the role of poetry in American society through his lectures and his activism on the page, as well as in his actions.”
Along with his poetic skills, Gioia is also well-versed in other fields. According to a USC press release, for years Gioia was known as the “business poet” because he earned an MBA from Stanford University, and later became the vice president of marketing for the General Foods Corporation.
Gioia attributes his unique approach to poetry to his childhood in Los Angeles. He was raised by a Sicilian father and a Mexican mother, and was the first in his family to attend college.
The poet mentioned that much of his success stems from his unique background. In addition to the Aiken Taylor Award, Gioia won the American Book Award for his third collection of poems, Interrogations at Noon.
“When growing up in L.A. in the ’60s, how can you not recognize the cultural energy around you?” Gioia said in a press release. “How do you transform that level of intensity to the solely verbal form that poetry requires?”
Gioia has released four poetry books, translated two collections of poetry, written three collections of criticism and three opera libretti. He has been an editor for numerous anthologies and handbooks.
As a recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award, Gioia joins a group of 27 previous award recipients, such as W.S. Merwin, Gwendolyn Brooks and Billy Collins.
“The award is given to a formal American poet to support formalism and all of its different [devices] in American poetry,” Couch said. “[Gioia’s] formalism pushes against the structure and he is a poet at the height of his career.”