Dana Gioia – Becoming A Redwood
From Poetry Foundation: “Gioia claims to be “the only person, in history, who went to business school to be a poet.” He later rose to become a vice president at General Foods, where he marketed products such as Kool-Aid.
These experiences in the corporate world, Gioia states, “taught me a lot of things that have helped me as a poet.” In 1992, he committed himself to writing full-time. Most recently, he served as chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2008.”
He speaks of his reformed life in his essay: “Being A California Poet” where he explains that:
“It is too easy in our society for an artist to become rootless, but I believe that it is essential for some writers to maintain their regional affinities. To speak from a particular place and time is not provincialism but part of a writer’s identity. It is my pleasure and my challenge to speak from California.”
Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds
start up again. The crickets, the invisible
toad who claims that change is possible,
And all the other life too small to name.
First one, then another, until innumerable
they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.
Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,
fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers
snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.
And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone
can bear to be a stone, the pain
the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.
Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,
rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall
and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.
The old windmill creaks in perfect time
to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,
and the last farmhouse light goes off.
Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt
these hills and packs of feral dogs.
But standing here at night accepts all that.
You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,
moving more slowly than the crippled stars,
part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,
Part of the grass that answers the wind,
part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows
there is no silence but when danger comes.
Date: March 14, 2012
Categories: Dana Gioia