USC's Gioia named state's Poet Laureate

California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed University of Southern California poetry professor Dana Gioia the state's new Poet Laureate on Friday.

“As a poet and a Californian I’m honored and delighted to represent this beautiful state,” Gioia said. “It’s very emotional for me. I was born in California. My place has asked me to serve my art.”

Gioia is a widely published poet and current Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC. He is also a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), where he helped establish the California Poetry Out Loud program. Poetry Out Loud is a national program that encourages young students to learn public speaking by memorizing and reciting poems.

“Dana will bring the voice of a native son of California to his new role,” Director of the California Arts Council Craig Watson said. “He’ll also help our state’s young people learn to explore and develop their own voices – just as he did when he created the Poetry Out Loud high school recitation program while at the NEA – a program which has greatly impacted California’s young people for 10 years.”

The role of Poet Laureate in California was created in 2001. The poet serves a two-year term, during which time he or she is tasked with conducting readings around the state and finding other ways of connecting Californians to the art of poetry. Gioia is considering touring the California counties with Poetry Out Loud programs, but otherwise hasn't yet announced any official initiatives.

Gioia's next collection, "99 Poems: New & Selected," will be published in March.

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