Michael Dana Gioia (born December 24, 1950) is an American poet and critic who retired early from his career as a corporate executive at General Foods to write full-time.
From January 29, 2003, until January 22, 2009, he was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States government’s arts agency, and has worked to revitalize an organization that had suffered bitter controversies about the nature of grants to artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gioia has sought to encourage jazz, which he calls the only uniquely American form of art, to promote reading and performance of William Shakespeare and to increase the number of Americans reading literature.
ALLEY CAT LOVE SONG
Come into the garden, Fred,
For the neighborhood tabby is gone.
Come into the garden, Fred.
I have nothing but my flea collar on,
And the scent of catnip has gone to my head.
I’ll wait by the screen door till dawn.
The fireflies court in the sweetgum tree.
The nightjar calls from the pine,
And she seems to say in her rhapsody,
“Oh, mustard-brown Fred, be mine!”
The full moon lights my whiskers afire,
And the fur goes erect on my spine.
I hear the frogs in the muddy lake
Croaking from shore to shore.
They’ve one swift season to soothe their ache.
In autumn they sing no more.
So ignore me now, and you’ll hear my meow
As I scratch all night at the door.
THE BURNING LADDER
never climbed the ladder
burning in his dream. Sleep
pressed him like a stone
in the dust,
he should have risen
like a flame to join
that choir, he was sick
his eyes to the Seraphim
of the impossible distances
between their steps,
them mount the brilliant
ladder, slowly disappearing
into the scattered light
between the stars,
through it all, a stone
upon a stone pillow,
always greater than desire.