Dana Gioia is in the midst of a commitment to visit every county in California, and arrives in Sierra County on Tuesday, April 4. He will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at their regular meeting at the County Courthouse at 11:30 AM. From there he moves to the Yuba Theatre at 12:30 PM for a poetry session open to everyone. The Downieville School students will join him for this gathering. And, finally, he will join anyone willing for lunch at the Masonic Hall at 1:30 PM. The lunch is being privately sponsored, enabling the cost per person to be held to $5.00. Lunch reservations need to be made by Wednesday, March 29, by calling 289-2751. The lunch is being catered by Jaada’s Kitchen of Downieville.
In the field of artistic endeavor, California’s poet laureate, Dana Gioia, doesn’t limit himself to just writing poetry. Out of his love for and study of music, he has written the libretti (text) for three operas. Several of his poems have been set to music by many composers, including Dave Brubeck, Lori Laitman, Stefania de Kenessy, Paquito D’Rivera, and others. And, Alva Henderson composed a symphonic choral work based on Gioia’s poems. So, when Dana Gioia visits Sierra County and Downieville on April 4, he will be bringing quite a repertoire of talents with him.
He also brings with him a varied and rich personal history. He is a native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent, born and raised in Hawthorne, a community in southwest Los Angeles. His mother’s Mestizo father had fled his reservation in New Mexico to settle in California, and his father’s family had immigrated from Sicily. He says, “My childhood was a rich mixture of European, Latino, Indian, Asian, and North American culture in which everything from Hollywood to the Vatican, Buddha to the Beach Boys had its place.”
For a time, Gioia worked in the corporate world, while trying to keep his work as a poet secret from his colleagues. He was “outed”, however, when, in 1984, he was featured in the first “Esquire Register of Men and Women Under Forty Who Are Changing America”. As he says on his website, “Had it been merely a literary honor, no one would have noticed, but here was the name of a General Foods executive on a list with really important people like Julius ‘Doctor J.’ Erving, Whoopi Goldberg, Dale Murphy, and Steven Spielberg.”
Dana Gioia’s visit to Sierra County is being jointly presented by the California Arts Council, the Sierra County Arts Council, and the Downieville Library Station. For information about this event, visit www.sierracountyartscouncil.org. Gioia’s own website, which contains information about the poet and his works, can be visited at www.danagioia.com.