header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
59°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
January 28
1850 - Death Valley '49er William Robinson dies in Soledad Canyon from drinking too much cool water [story]
Leaving Death Valley


The words leapt right off the page and hung in the air, heavy, encircling the audience. Their creator stood, offering his gifts of verse — shared in a powerful baritone voice. California Poet Laureate and native Angeleno Dana Gioia captivated his audience Nov. 16 in his first-ever reading at California State University, Northridge.

Gioia, one of the country’s greatest living poets and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), drew more than 100 fans — including faculty, staff, alumni, students and patrons — to the Robert and Maureen Gohstand Leisure Reading Room in CSUN’s Delmar T. Oviatt Library. The free evening lecture and reading, called “The Joys of Poetry and Prose,” was the inaugural event in a biennial speaker series for the reading room.

Before reading from his own works and taking questions from the audience, Gioia spoke about the decline of reading in American society and his quest — personal, academic and as head of the NEA — to reverse that trend.

“The early experience of reading opens up something in an individual’s mind and imagination, which makes him or her begin to lead their lives differently,” Gioia said. “Children, from the very earliest age, need to read stories. They need to know how many possible outcomes any story has, how many characters, how many plot reversals. If you don’t train the imagination early on, it tends to be locked into a very narrow set of possibilities.

“It’s the books that capture the imagination that deliver the practical outcomes, rather than the books that are designed with cold-blooded pragmatism to teach people mechanical skills of reading,” said Gioia, who also serves as the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California.

“Literature has the power to arrest the attention to create an empathetic connection as you’re reading, to use your imagination, to fill out the details,” he said. “That’s why reading is a more powerful imaginative exercise than watching a film. The debt that I owe to books, to public libraries, is immeasurable. It made a huge difference in my life.”

Like many CSUN students, Gioia was raised by immigrants and was the first person in his family to attend college, noted Mark Stover, dean of the Oviatt Library. Gioia grew up in the low-income LA neighborhood of Hawthorne, just blocks from the public library.

“I was raised by people who were raised in foreign countries (Mexico and Sicily, Italy), who came here and were just getting by,” Gioia recounted. “They had almost no narrative possibilities in their lives except just surviving. I was given the luxury of a public library, five blocks away. I could go in, and I could understand, there were possibilities in my life that my parents and grandparents knew nothing of.”

Gioia spent the first 15 years of his career writing at night while working for General Foods Corporation. After his 1991 essay “Can Poetry Matter?” in The Atlantic generated international attention, Gioia quit his day job to pursue writing full time. “Can Poetry Matter?” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture.

He served as NEA chairman from 2003-09. He has published five full-length collections of poetry and won the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry for lifetime achievement in American poetry in 2014. In addition to the poetry collections, he has published three volumes of literary criticism, as well as opera libretti, song cycles, translations and more than two dozen literary anthologies.

Gioia was appointed California Poet Laureate by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015. In this role, he advocates for poetry and literature in libraries, classrooms and in communities across the state. As his official project, Gioia set out to become the first state poet laureate to hold poetry readings in all 58 counties in California.

“I’m trying to go to Lassen County, but Lassen doesn’t have any libraries,” he quipped. “There are 3,000 people [in the county], and the person who runs the arts for the state there, it’s a part-time job. She also works as a forest ranger. In a lot of these places, I’m the first person who’s ever given a poetry reading.

“Everywhere I go, I find the high school winners for [the national recitation contest] Poetry Out Loud, and I make it for the community,” he said. “I’m the catalyst, rather than the star. People may not like to read poems, but they like to hear them.”

The fans and scholars who attended the CSUN event with Gioia represented both camps — readers and listeners — and they sat in rapt silence after the poet switched from his “sociological mode into my squishy, poetic one,” he said, grinning.

He recited several of his poems, most of them about California. These included “The Apple Orchard,” an ode to a springtime stroll in a Northern California orchard with a girl he’d loved in college, and “Pity the Beautiful,” about the “cult of beauty in LA.” He also shared “Majority,” a wistful poem about the son he and his wife lost at 4 months old to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

CSUN student Crystal Gordon, a child and adolescent development major who is studying to become an elementary school teacher, asked Gioia’s advice for fostering students’ comfort in writing poetry. He advised Gordon to help children connect with language by memorizing short poems and sharing poetry they love, such as funny poems about animals. As an example, he recited an Ogden Nash poem about a panther.

He also shared his influences with the audience, including his favorite poets: Shakespeare, John Donne — “especially when he’s smutty” — Tennyson, Robert Frost and Philip Larkin.

Gioia’s appearance was co-sponsored by the Friends of the Oviatt Library and part of a free lecture series supported by CSUN’s Distinguished Visiting Speakers Program. In his introduction of the poet, Stover quoted The New York Times, which in 2008 called Gioia “the talkative poet and shrewd administrator who resuscitated congressional support for the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Securing a dedicated space for leisure reading at the Oviatt Library was a longtime dream of geography professor emeritus Robert (Bob) Gohstand. In 2014, Gohstand and his wife, Maureen, dedicated the leisure reading room, which is located on the second floor of the library’s west wing.

At the Nov. 16 program, Bob Gohstand lauded Gioia for leading the charge against “the fall of reading” for many years. He also quoted from one of Gioia’s articles, stating that “literature awakens, enlarges, enhances and refines our humanity in a way that nothing else can.”

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


HIGHER EDUCATION LINKS
LOCAL COLLEGE HEADLINES
Friday, Jan 28, 2022
Three California Institute of the Arts alums were named USA Fellows by United States Artists, an organization that supports artists and uplifts their essential roles in society.
Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022
Nominees for the 53rd NAACP Image Awards include CalArtians honored across several categories, including Outstanding Actor, Outstanding Animated Motion Picture, Outstanding Short Form (Animiated), Outstanding Children’s Program and Outstanding Animated Series.
Thursday, Jan 20, 2022
Coming off a first-place winning streak at competitions in New York and Washington, D.C., earlier in 2021, the CSUN Model United Nations team continues to accumulate achievements after scoring another first place finish with the Outstanding Delegation Award in the Northwest Model UN Conference, which took place Nov. 19-21 in Seattle.
Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022
California State University, Northridge was given two honors from the National Opera Association, officials said Tuesday. 
Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022
The College of the Canyons Spring 2022 semester begins  Feb. 7, and those looking for the classes needed to upgrade their skills, or transfer to a four-year university, still have time to register. 
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
To celebrate the Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2022 winter games, join your friends and neighbors for a free sit-in movie – Disney’s “Miracle” – Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m at The Cube.
Feb. 3: Parking Lot Screening of ‘Miracle’ at The Cube
Three California Institute of the Arts alums were named USA Fellows by United States Artists, an organization that supports artists and uplifts their essential roles in society.
CalArtians Named to United States Artists’ 2022 Fellowship Class
Carousel Ranch will be offering a special "Val-o-grams" Valentine’s Day-themed fundraiser to benefit the programs at the therapeutic riding ranch.
Val-O-Grams Fundraiser to Benefit Carousel Ranch
1850 - Death Valley '49er William Robinson dies in Soledad Canyon from drinking too much cool water [story]
Leaving Death Valley
Following a nationwide search, Paseo Aquatics, a premier USA-Swimming Sanctioned club located in Santa Clarita, has landed Kameron Kennedy.
Level 4 Coach Kameron Kennedy Joins Paseo Aquatics
College of the Canyons women's basketball, winners of four straight, checked in as the No. 8 ranked team in the state in the first California Community College Sports Information Association (CCCSIA) poll of the 2021-22 season, released on Jan. 26. 
Lady Cougars Ranked 8th in New Statewide Poll
The city of Santa Clarita is pleased to announce that the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Trail Users volunteer group will help build out a scenic portion of the new Crest to Coast Trail in Newhall.
Local Trail Users Volunteer Group Assisting New Crest to Coast Trail
The public is invited to an opening reception at the Santa Clarita Artists Association Gallery on Friday, Feb. 18, from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
SCAA Hosting ‘Fantastical Flora’ Art Reception
Love is in the air at The MAIN, where “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” will take the stage in February!
‘Diaries of Adam and Eve’ Coming to The MAIN
On Saturday, Jan. 22, Santa Clarita Transit partnered with Guide Dogs of America to provide training to service dogs in Central Park.
Santa Clarita Transit Lends Helping Hand to Guide Dogs
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital reported two additional deaths from COVID-19 Thursday, bringing the total number to 208 since the onset of the pandemic, confirmed spokesman Patrick Moody.
Thursday COVID Roundup: Henry Mayo Reports Two Additional Deaths
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold its Budget Committee meeting Monday, Jan. 31, at 2:00 p.m.
Jan. 31: Santa Clarita Budget Committee Meeting
During the month of February, the city of Santa Clarita is teaming up with community partners to help show appreciation for our hospital staff who have been on the frontline of this pandemic for nearly two full years.
City, Local Organizations Partner to Thank Henry Mayo Staff
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health cautions residents who are planning to visit the following Los Angeles County beaches to avoid swimming, surfing, and playing in ocean waters
Water Use Warning Issued for L.A. County Beaches
1970 - Gov. Ronald Reagan appoints Adrian Adams as Newhall's first "second" judge [story]
Adrian Adams
Caltrans announced Tuesday it is approving the use of low-carbon cement to help reduce the carbon footprint of California’s transportation system.
CalTrans Approves Use Of Low-Carbon Cement For Future Projects
The Tejon Ranch Conservancy is honoring one college intern's passion for wildlife conservation and highlighting her unique story.
Tejon Ranch Conservancy Recognizes College Intern’s Passion for Wildlife Conservation
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 91 additional deaths and 20,866 new cases of COVID-19 countywide, with 66,432 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Wednesday COVID-Roundup: County Reports Youngest Death Since Pandemic Began
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced "A Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth", a film-based program to help address increasing mental health challenges faced by students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Superintendent Launches Statewide Mental Health Program
Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic for youth across the country, according to the United States Surgeon General.
Feb 10: County Hosts Youth Mental Health Seminar
Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn called Tuesday for a thorough assessment of the Department of Children and Family Services that will place a spotlight on how well the organization is guided by evidence-based decisions and data to deliver outcomes for its clients. 
Board of Supervisors Approve Assessment of County Children and Family Services
1990 - "Duplicates" premieres at L.A. Phil; concerto by CalArts Music School dean Mel Powell wins Pulitzer Prize [story]
Mel Powell
The Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley’s Empower Hour will be held virtually at noon, Saturday, Feb. 5 on Zoom.
Feb. 5: Zonta Club of SCV Hosts Virtual Empower Hour on Child Marriage
The Sierra Hillbillies Square Dance Club will kick off Super Bowl celebrations a week early at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6.
Feb. 6: Sierra Hillbillies Square Dance Club Hosting Super Sunday Tailgate Party
SCVNews.com
%d bloggers like this: