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Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  154 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
In 1991, Dana Gioia's provocative essay "Can Poetry Matter?" was published in the Atlantic Monthly, and received more public response than any other piece in the magazine's history. In his book, Gioia more fully addressed the question: Is there a place for poetry to be part of modern American mainstream culture? Ten years later, the debate is as lively and heated as ever. ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Graywolf Press (first published 1992)
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Jul 10, 2011 Leanna rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. First, a tangent: from what I've heard, Gioia is like a poetry Republican. By that I mean (1) he's into connecting to the good ol' regular people with his writing and (2) as a business-man turned poet, he seems to (subtly) advocate for poets having real jobs in the real world instead of this ethereal academic business. I think he also used to work for some conservative organization. Anyway, I have not researched this, so there's a good chance I'm blatantly wrong abo ...more
Jul 13, 2008 Caroline rated it liked it
Because I love graphs, here's a little hedonic calculus. The spike towards the end of the book corresponds to his essay on Elizabeth Bishop.

Overall, not bad, but not especially insightful. Really, I think this deserves more like a 2.5. The first section of Can Poetry Matter? intrigued me, but I was increasingly disappointed through much of the rest of the book (aka: Gioia's various essays on poets.) He pretty quickly diverts from the question the title raises, but I kept wanting to get back to
Alex Kennard
If this book is anything to go by, Dana Gioia's taste in poetry is intensely boring. Over four days of reading, I can't tell you how much I've wanted to say that.

But first, the essay the collection gets its name from and one of four essays that make the book worth reading: Can Poetry Matter. This book is 25 years old this year. But looking back on Gioia's complaint that poetry moved too far into academia, yes, he was correct. Gioia suggests that the way out of this problem is to write mass mark
Stephanie Schultz
Feb 28, 2015 Stephanie Schultz rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
I did not actually finish this book. I read the first two essays and cannot read any more. Ten pages into the first chapter I was bored and annoyed by the author's grand sweeping comments about poets.

For example, "The teaching poet finds he or she has very little in common with academic colleagues." What? The author states this opinion and others throughout the book as if they were fact, instead of saying "I think" or "I've noticed this to be true." There are no numbers or statistics to back-up
Ashley Booth
Apr 19, 2016 Ashley Booth rated it liked it
Beginning part was great--essays on poets were still interesting but far less than the first part of the book (I wasn't looking for another book of essays on poets). Still worth a read though, for sure.
Dean Anderson
Sep 06, 2014 Dean Anderson rated it liked it
I enjoyed much of the book, especially the title essay and the piece on T.S. Eliot and Robert Bly, but I skipped many pieces about poets I don't know.
Ashley Cale
Aug 09, 2014 Ashley Cale rated it it was amazing
Great essays! Dana Gioia is such a talented poet and inspiring champion of literature's place in education and the arts and humanities in general; I emphatically agree that poetry does have, and, must have, a vital place in society. So much of life is of the stuff of the ineffable and it must be worked out through the creative undertakings of the arts to inspire, confound, and inform each generation. In short, he may have been "preaching to the choir," so to speak, but it's worth a read to convi ...more
Joanne Gass
Jan 08, 2015 Joanne Gass rated it really liked it
Good writing. Good book.
Jun 24, 2011 Barbara rated it liked it
I wish I would have read this in 1992 when it was published, because Gioia's argument has lost its relevancy. Poetry has had a renaissance since the 90's, thank god, and I believe many of the concerns and issues Gioia expresses in the wonderfully written book have been resolved; and Gioia, our National Poet Laurette at that time, did much to change the way poetry is recognized in the U.S. However, this is still a great reference book.
Apr 10, 2009 lucke1984 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: academics
I haven't completed this book and likely never will. The title had been on my mind and I hoped to find an answer in these pages. Unfortunately the piece is academic and relegates itself to obscurity by the same means as poetry itself does. In whatever sense this is literary criticism ( which may be, if at all, only a small one) it highlights the fact that, whatever the relevance of poetry, it doesn't matter.
Aug 07, 2007 Kristin rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry-criticism
The book starts off great--it's written well, and I think Gioia has a lot of important things to say about poetry and poets. The importance of reading, the importance of readings, the importance of reviewing.

But the book gets misleading; almost 3/4 of it is just reviews and essays he has written about poems and poets. Interesting, but not really what the title advertises. I was let down a bit.
Sep 13, 2007 Adaś rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, american
Provocative and fairly incensing, Gioia's calls for a new formalism are meant to be taken as a battle call, either for or against. I am personally against and the titular essay annoyed the hell out of me, but the thought and dialogue it encouraged was invaluable.
Mar 15, 2007 Mike rated it liked it
I believe that it can. So does Dana. Of course, her explanation is a bit more highbrow and dense than I would have preferred. Which, I suspect, is why so few people these days choose to let poetry matter to them.
Jul 14, 2013 David rated it really liked it
Although now dated in parts, I found Dana Gioia's Can Poetry Matter? an extremely informative and intellectually stimulating read. I particularly enjoyed the chapters devoted to specific poets.
Mar 30, 2008 Christine rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, poetry
Wonderful, critical essays on what it means to be a poet today and issues that plague the "poetry subculture." Also great critical reviews of poets. An absolute must for young poets.
William Torgerson
May 31, 2011 William Torgerson rated it it was amazing
This book showed me how much I didn't know about poetry. It caused me to be a more determined student while doing an MFA in Creative Writing at Georgia College and State University.
Aug 26, 2007 D. rated it really liked it
This book helped me pinpoint what it is that I don't like about most modern poetry today: it's not written for a general audience; it's written for other academics and MFAs.
Mugren Al-Ohaly
Feb 02, 2016 Mugren Al-Ohaly rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
A good collection of essays. The best one is the title essay, "Can poetry matter?" All poets, and readers of poetry, should read that essay.
Feb 28, 2008 julia rated it really liked it
this book gave me hope, to know someone else was thinking of these things even if they are not important to most of the world.
Oct 27, 2008 CLM marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction
I heard Dana Gioia speak tonight at the JFK Library, and he was delightful (even handled a heckler with aplomb).
Great set of essays on poetry and modern American poets. Good piece on T S Eliot.
Sep 07, 2011 Charity rated it it was amazing
A National Treasure. If you have an interest in poetry, this is a must.
Will marked it as to-read
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Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia is a native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent. He received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. (Gioia is pronounced JOY-uh.)

Gioia has published four full-length collections of poetry, as wel
More about Dana Gioia...

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