Christianity and Poetry, by Dana Gioia
In his celebrated essay Christianity and Poetry Dana Gioia proposes the radical notion that poetry is not merely an important element of the Christian tradition, it is “an essential, inextricable, and necessary aspect of religious faith and practice.” Poetry is the proper idiom for the revelation of divine mystery.
Analyzing poetry’s role in scripture, Gioia argues that Christian mysteries could not be fully understood or expressed without the power of poetic language. Some truths require the utmost vigor of language to carry their full meaning. He also criticizes contemporary Christianity for the use of stale and prosaic language in its liturgy, translations, and worship. “The Incarnation,” he writes, “deserves an ode, not an email.”
This is the final, expanded version of Gioia’s influential essay, which was First Things readers' favorite of 2022. His monograph traces the development of Christian poetry, both sacred and literary, from Biblical times to the present. It provides a persuasive, clarifying introduction to the relationship between faith and poetry.
“With his typical eloquence and clarity, Dana Gioia makes the striking two-fold claim that poetry is indebted to Christianity, and Christianity to poetry. Here is a critic at the height of his powers, making the case once again for the value of verse and offering a careful account of the relationship between poetry and faith.”
—Micah Mattix, Poetry Editor, First Things
Dana Gioia is an internationally recognized poet, critic, and former Poet Laureate of California. He is the author of six collections of verse, including Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the American Book Award, and 99 Poems: New & Selected (2016), which was granted the Poets’ Prize. His critical collections include Can Poetry Matter? (1992), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award, and The Catholic Writer Today and Other Essays (2019), whose title essay started an international debate about the role of faith in contemporary literature.
Gioia has also written four opera libretti and edited over twenty anthologies. For six years he served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia has been awarded 11 honorary doctorates. He has also received the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame, Aiken-Taylor Award in Modern Poetry, and Presidential Citizens Medal. Gioia served as the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California where he hosted the first Catholic Literary Imagination Conference in 2015. He lives in California.
Publication Date: November 28, 2023
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