In his essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” (1991), Gioia rankled many vested interests when he called attention to the ill-formed poetry produced in reams by America’s academic establishment. “Seeing so much mediocre verse not only published but praised, slogging through so many dull anthologies and small magazines, most readers … now assume,” he wrote, “that no significant new poetry is being written. This public skepticism represents the final isolation of verse as an art form in contemporary society.” Yet in “Autumn Inaugural,” he relents and treats his refractory critics to a lesson in song. He practices what he preaches. If they will not concede the points he makes in his essay, they might at least listen to his music, a music replete with form’s enrapturing alchemy.
The first two lines of “The Road” are slightly misquoted. They should read:
He noticed then that no one chose the way—
All seemed to drift by some collective will.