HBU Press Releases

Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts to Keynote Writers’ Conference at Houston Baptist University

January 23, 2014

HOUSTON (January 16, 2014) – Dana Gioia, internationally acclaimed poet and former chairman of the National Dana GioiaEndowment for the Arts (NEA), will speak twice at Houston Baptist University’s second annual Writers’ Conference. He will deliver the keynote on Friday evening, January 31, and give a separate opening address to start the conference on Saturday, February 1.
Prior to his appointment as chairman of the NEA, Gioia published the now famous essay “Can Poetry Matter?” in The Atlantic Monthly in 1991. It later became part of a widely influential book of essays with the same title. This seminal essay sparked national dialogue about the role of poetry in American public culture and has been credited with reviving the genre’s esteem in American society.

During his tenure at the NEA, Mr. Gioia reinvigorated the public agency with his vision of democratizing it and giving it a more clearly articulated purpose and wider reach than it had yet attained. He managed to achieve this, in part, through several highly successful programs founded under his direction: notably Shakespeare in American Communities, The Big Read, and Poetry Out Loud. Among other things, these initiatives organized youth poetry recitation contests on a national scale; sparked month-long celebrations of literature in four hundred communities across the country, and sponsored performances of Shakespeare across the country, bringing professional theater to many communities for the first time.
Gioia’s famous essay “Can Poetry Matter?” will be the driving thematic force for HBU’s Second Annual Writers’ Conference. After his keynote address on Friday evening and his opening remarks on Saturday morning, conference sessions will include a host of related topics covered by a wide array of speakers. Among the speakers are acclaimed graphic novelist, videogame creator and screenwriter, Doug TenNapel; award-winning songwriter, Jason Harrod; multiple award-winning novelists; professional editors and published authors of all stripes; leaders of the Gulf Coast Federation of Writers and Writers in the Schools; Houston-area journal and magazine editors; members of the celebrated University of Houston Creative Writing Program; and a host of university faculty with a range of writing experience. 
The conference takes place on Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1. Mr. Gioia’s keynote address will take place on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. in Belin Chapel, and will be free and open to the public. General admission to the rest of the conference, which opens Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m., is $30 (lunch provided). Admission to the entire conference is free to students who register with a current school ID (lunch available for purchase). All those interested, whether students or professionals, can visit the conference webpage for more information and to register: hbu.edu/WritersConference.
Conference Schedule and Locations
Friday, January 31
7:30 p.m.
Belin Chapel, in the Morris Cultural Arts Center on the HBU Campus
Saturday, February 1
9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
University Academic Center on the HBU Campus
More About Dana Gioia
Gioia’s poems and other works have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, The Hudson Review and elsewhere. His poems have been translated into numerous languages.
Among other accolades, he won the American Book Award in 2002 for his book of poetry Interrogations at Noon and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991 for his book of essays Can Poetry Matter? As a librettist, Gioia has received multiple honors. Tony Caruso's Final Broadcast (2008) was chosen as winner of the National Opera Association's Competition for "Best New One Act Opera."
Gioia has published four full-length books of poetry, three books of criticism, and numerous anthologies of literature in various genres. Most notable and recent are his books of poetry, Pity the Beautiful and Interrogations at Noon; and his books of criticism, Disappearing Ink and Can Poetry Matter? 
Aside from countless speaking engagements at universities and conferences, including a much-discussed commencement speech at Stanford University in 2007, Gioia has spoken at the internationally revered TED conference. In 2012, he gave a speech at TEDx in his own Sonoma County on the significance of place and the role of creative literature in all spheres of life.
He is currently the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California.
About Houston Baptist University
Founded in 1960, HBU is an independent Christian university that offers enriched academic and student life experiences in a major metropolitan area. As a result of implementing its twelve-year vision, The Ten Pillars: Faith and Reason in a Great City, HBU is on a trajectory to become a comprehensive, national university. By fostering the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of its students, the University provides A Higher Education, one that prepares students to succeed not only in their careers but also in life. For more information about HBU, please visit www.hbu.edu.