Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Books: Interview with Dana Gioia

Naghmeh and I went to hear Dana Gioia speak at the HRC (one of the premier literary archives in the US). It was enjoyable and inspiring.
Here are some excerpts from a Statesman interview. He talked about some of these topics in his lecture.

On poetry:
"Poetry is a way of speaking, but it's also a way of listening — and it comes from the same rootstalk as music and song and theater. It's the kind of listening we don't do every day. You might ask, "Well, why do we need to do that?" And I'd say because it's important to have your humanity awakened, and enhanced, and developed, and refined. The trouble and toil we go through in everyday life tends to make us much more withdrawn into our psyches."

On arts and society
"A third trend is that a lot of our institutions — especially academic ones — have lost their ability to reach and speak to society. We have these tremendous subcultures in the arts, but almost no public figures emerging from them, the way Leonard Bernstein or Robert Frost once became part of the public conversation with the United States. Both brought ideas into society, but both brought people to the arts. We're not creating an audience commensurate with our institutions, not affecting society in a way commensurate with the talent that exists in the art world. The arts suffer. The society suffers. And I think youth suffers most because they don't have the power of the arts to fully realize their human potential."

On reading:
"Every group of Americans reads less, and less well than they did 20 years ago. That has terrible personal, social, cultural and civic consequences. Since people read less, they read less well. And since they read less well, they do less well in their academic study, which means they do less well in the job market. . . Reading awakens something to people's humanity. I worry that we're going into an America that's increasingly fragmented, isolated, commercialized, inert. "

On art and emotion:
"Art, especially literature, is one of the ways that cultures have traditionally recognized that you train emotions — you read plays and poems and novels. They allow you to rehearse powerful emotions and see their various consequences. So I think when you take those things out, when you replace novels and theater with video games, you're trading an emotional complexity for a simple adrenaline rush."