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What is the tone in the Dana Gioia poem "Money"?

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On the surface, the poem "Money" by Dana Gioia is lighthearted in tone. It is basically an assortment of clichés and common sayings about money strung together in a poetic structure. However, the quote from Wallace Stevens, "Money is a kind of poetry," at the beginning of the poem suggests there is a more complex undertone, and this is indeed the case.

Perhaps a clue to the undertone of "Money" can be found in Gioia's famous essay "Can Poetry Matter?" that first appeared in The Atlantic magazine in May 1991. He speaks of the role of language in a free society: "Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning." In the final paragraph of the essay he says:

It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture.

Although the poem "Money" seems almost flippant on the surface, its undertone is profound. Gioia uses commonly-used expressions about money to...

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