The End of the World

Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia

It seems almost a requirement for a poet to have an unconventional résumé, but Dana Gioia’s is perhaps notable for being so conventionally unpoetic. A graduate of Stanford Business School, Gioia claims to be “the only person, in history, who went to business school to be a poet.” He later rose to become a vice president at General Foods. Most recently, he served as chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2008. Although Gioia writes in free verse, he is known primarily for his formal work, and has been included in the school of New Formalism, a movement in the 1990s by American poets to bring traditional verse forms back to the fore.
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The End of the World

“We're going,” they said, “to the end of the world.”

So they stopped the car where the river curled,

And we scrambled down beneath the bridge

On the gravel track of a narrow ridge.


We tramped for miles on a wooded walk

Where dog-hobble grew on its twisted stalk.

Then we stopped to rest on the pine-needle floor

While two ospreys watched from an oak by the shore.


We came to a bend, where the river grew wide

And green mountains rose on the opposite side.

My guides moved back. I stood alone,

As the current streaked over smooth flat stone.


Shelf by stone shelf the river fell.

The white water goosetailed with eddying swell.

Faster and louder the current dropped

Till it reached a cliff, and the trail stopped.


I stood at the edge where the mist ascended,

My journey done where the world ended.

I looked downstream. There was nothing but sky,

The sound of the water, and the water’s reply.

Recitation of "The End of the World" by Dana Gioia

Theme of the Poem

I believe that the theme of this poem is that life is short, so take the journey, the REAL journey through life as soon as you can, and enjoy it to the fullest.

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