Robert Dana Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Robert Dana is the editor of Against the Grain: Interviews with Maverick American Publishers (1986) and A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1999). Transcripts of interviews he conducted with notable literary figures have been published in academic journals, including American Poetry Review and Midwest Quarterly. He has contributed essays and literary criticism discussing poetry and poets to such periodicals as The New York Times, Kenyon Review, North American Review, and Georgia Review.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Robert Dana’s body of work was recognized with the Rainer Maria Rilke Prize (1984), New York University’s Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award (1989), and the Carl Sandburg Medal for poetry (1994). In 1980, he was chosen to participate in the White House Salute to Poetry and American Poets. Dana’s landmark volume, Starting Out for the Difficult World, was short-listed for the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. He won a 1996 Pushcart Prize for his poem, “Take It or Leave It,” published in Kenyon Review. Dana received the Danforth Teacher Study Grant in 1959 and 1960, and a Ford-Associated Colleges of the Midwest grant in 1966 and 1967. He was awarded fellowships for poetry in 1962 and 1963 from the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985 and 1993. He served as the poet laureate of Iowa from 2004 until 2009.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Brunner, Edward. “From Deep Space: The Poetry of Robert Dana.” Iowa Review 22, no. 3 (1992): 115-134. Indispensable overview of Dana’s verse that traces its evolution from early Formalist verse and minimalist experiments. Particularly focused on Dana’s strategy for violating the poet’s profound isolation by offering art itself as mediating terrain. Close readings of several key Dana poems.

Dana, Robert. “’Better to Go in Rags’: An Interview with Robert Dana.” Interview by Sara Pennington. Chattahoochee Review 27, no. 2 (Winter, 2007): 12-20. Dana responds to critical reaction to The Morning of the Red Admirals. He explains why he risks writing poems that deviate stylistically from his previous works. “Better to go in rags” is a line from “Spindrift,” a poem in The Morning of the Red Admirals, in which Dana criticizes the commercialization of poetry.

_______. “An Interview with Robert Dana.” Interview by Lowell Jaeger. Poets and Writers (July/August, 1991): 13-21. Revealing discussion centering on Dana’s sense of language and his place in twentieth century poetics. Contains candid biographical information.

_______. “Unleashing the Comic Muse: An Interview with Robert Dana.” Interview by Guy Lebeda. Weber Studies: Voices and Viewpoints of the Contemporary West 22, no. 3 (2006): 2-13. Dana discusses his disappointment that critics often do not recognize or simply ignore humorous and satiric elements of his poetry, including poems in The Morning of the Red Admirals. Comments regarding educational and publishing experiences that shaped his style and explains duties associated with being named Iowa poet laureate.

Holinger, Richard. “Transcendental Bouquet.” Review of Yes, Everything. Iowa Review 25, no. 3 (1995): 168-171. Explores Dana’s Buddhist sense of the connectedness of everything and the beauty in the mundane. Places him within the transcendentalist school of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Low, Denise. “A Morning Free of Measure.” Review of The Morning of the Red Admirals. Kansas City Star, August 8, 2004, p. 6. Former Kansas poet laureate Low praises Dana’s use of language, specifically classical and Old English vocabulary, and a butterfly metaphor to represent changes in his approach to writing poems. Examines the effectiveness of Dana’s shift in style and structure in this collection’s second and third parts.