Dana Gioia was born Michael Dana Gioia in Los Angeles, the first of four surviving children of Michael Gioia, a cabdriver and shoe-store owner, and Dorothy Ortiz Gioia, a telephone operator. One of his brothers, Ted Gioia, became a major jazz critic. The Gioia family was Sicilian, with most members living in the same neighborhood. Gioia’s mother was of Mexican heritage, and thus Gioia grew up in a multilingual context, one that heightened his sense of language. When he won a scholarship to Stanford University, Gioia for the first time left behind both the security and the provincialism of a tight family structure. Gioia originally intended to study music, but his love of literature and his distaste for atonality directed him back to English, for which he was awarded a B.A. in 1973. Gioia then left to study comparative literature at Harvard.
Although his work with Robert Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Bishop at Harvard confirmed his resolve to write poetry, Gioia became increasingly distressed at the direction that literary studies were taking in the academy; accordingly, he left Harvard with an M.A., having completed his Ph.D. course work, and returned to Stanford, in 1977 earning an M.B.A. degree. It was also at Stanford that he met Mary Hiecke, whom he married in 1980. After receiving his M.B.A., Gioia moved to New York and worked in business, eventually becoming a vice president of Kraft-General Foods. Though he was writing poetry and criticism regularly, he kept his two...
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