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Bush to Nominate Poet for NEA Chief

Bush to Nominate Poet for NEA Chief

President Bush said Wednesday he will nominate poet Dana Gioia to head the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gioia, 51, won this year's American Book Award for his third book of poems, "Interrogations at Noon." His best-known book, "Can Poetry Matter?", is a study of poetry in modern American culture.

"I am particularly excited by the opportunity to help guide an agency whose role is so important to our society and culture," Gioia said. "The arts enliven and enlarge our humanity. Especially in such challenging times, they nourish the spirit of our nation."

The NEA has generally strong support on Capitol Hill, a far cry from a decade ago when conservatives sought unsuccessfully to kill the agency because it financed projects some said were obscene and blasphemous.

If confirmed by the Senate to a four-year term, Gioia would succeed Michael P. Hammond, who died in January after just a week as chairman.

Besides poetry, Gioia writes classical music criticism for the magazine San Francisco and comments on American literature and culture for the BBC. He also translates poetry from Latin, German, Romanian and Italian, including a volume of verse by Eugenio Montale, the Italian Nobel prizewinner.

Gioia also is active in the theater. He has written a dance theater piece, "Counting the Children," and the libretto for the opera "Nosferatu" with composer Alva Henderson.

Gioia has taught as a visiting writer at Johns Hopkins University, Sarah Lawrence College and Wesleyan University. Last year he founded "Teaching Poetry," a conference on improving high school poetry instruction.

Gioia spent 15 years as a business executive for General Foods Corp.

He lives in Sonoma County, Calif., with his wife and two sons.


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