Pity the Beautiful
Graywolf Press 2012
Dana Gioia‘s deference to poetic tradition and artistic beauty is intolerable to those who taste the venom of ideology in every linguistic expression of experience. But what ideology is present in the poet’s response to having lost a child? More broadly, what ideology is at play when our bodies find pleasure in the music of words, what ideology is at play when form is not used to preserve some aristocratic sensibility, but to protect the self – poor or rich – from its own nature, and what ideology is present in a poetry that celebrates the act of reading by seeking common ground with the reader? Ideology is not at the root of Dana Gioia’s Pity the Beautiful (Graywolf Press, 2012). Instead, one discovers an uncanny humility, sadly so foreign to us in our Age of Boasting, an age that exists because we let others convince us we lack so much. But it isn’t that we lack so much, but that deep down we sense that this world is not quite our home; that there is another home hidden from us – a home poetry is best equipped to help us find. The poems in Pity the Beautiful are provoked into existence by a poet acutely aware of the mystery of creation and the suffering that often animates it. But he is equally aware of the gift that each of us are made to not only apprehend it, but to wrestle joyfully with. Dana Gioia’s poetry is a reflection of his wrestling, a wrestling he has faith we can recognize as our own.