The University of Pittsburgh Press (Pitt Poetry Series) is proud to share the news that Ross Gay is one of five finalists for the National Book Foundation, National Book Awards, in the poetry category, for his brilliant collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. The winner will be announced on November 18.
In our minds he has already won. Here are ten reasons to love Ross Gay:
Gratitude 1: Ross Gay views joy in contemporary poetry as a radical act
“I was noticing, like, “Holy shit, look at these wonderful poets and these wonderful readings.” But I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of light getting through, you know? They were sharing really good poetry, really important poetry, but I felt myself needing something like gratitude, something like joy, along with struggle.”
“Even when I came up with the title, I was laughing. I could imagine a table of very smart, very ironic people all dressed in black taking a piss on my book.”
Read the full interview on divedapper.
Gratitude 2: He embraces the natural cycles of life and death
“The Bloomington Community Orchard must have spread its roots into Ross Gay, an Indiana University English professor, as the organic poems in his third collection bear fruit, line by line, with each fresh word or phrase. These are accessible, alive poems that give one the sense of sitting and talking in the poet’s kitchen. Often vulnerable and self-conscious in tone, they dig deep in the dirt of memory and unearth powerful images. In ‘Burial,’ the speaker adds his father’s ashes to the soil while planting a plum tree, and he sees his mother as a bison, dragging ‘her hooves through the ash / of her heart,’ in ‘c’mon!’ Whether by contemplating the extraordinary within everyday acts (sleeping in clothes, drinking water, buttoning and unbuttoning a shirt), or by entwining past and present as he pays homage to parents, friends, even his former love, Gay embraces the natural cycles of life and death as only an introspective gardener and accomplished poet can.”
Gratitude 3: Ross Gay sees poetry as a way to navigate the space between knowing and not knowing
He shares his thoughts on imagination in this fascinating lecture at Cave Canem Foundation.
Gratitude 4: He is not afraid to laugh out loud and cry out loud when he reads
“Beloved is a book that makes me cry. Percival Everett makes me laugh. I was sitting in a diner in Philly reading his American Desert and was laughing out loud so hard someone asked me what I was reading because I was obviously having a good time.”
Gratitude 5: Ross Gay gets his inspiration from working with the earth
In an interview with Poetry Foundation, Ross Gay talks about the similarities between gardening and building a poetry collection.
“The other thing, and this is the truth-truth, is that there’s a degree of intuition involved. If you could go through my various notebooks that have anything in them, including poems, including notes on a book on farming I’m writing, you’d find little drawings of gardens and plants. They’re incredible. I think you’d think I really knew what I was doing. Because I have all the space laid out real good, and this tree is going to be like, 15 feet away from that tree, and this is going to be here and this is going to be there. My garden is awesome, but it does not look like that. [laughs] It’s designed—it’s really designed—but that design is intuitive. And it’s constantly merging and changing and evolving. And I think there’s a degree of organizing a book that also feels like that. Like, this feels right here. I hope it’s going to work.”
Gratitude 6: He doesn’t have to be a poet but he loves being a poet
Ross Gay talks poetry on the American Academy of Poets.
Gratitude 7: His first collection with Pitt Poetry Series is also a stunner
“Ross Gay is some kind of brilliant latter-day troubadour whose poetry is shaped not only by yearning but also play and scrutiny, melancholy and intensity. I might be shocked by the bold, persistent love throughout Bringing the Shovel Down if I wasn’t so wooed and transformed by it.”
–Terrance Hayes (fellow 2015 National Book Award finalist)
Gratitude 8: Ross Gay loves his students and his fans
A long line of eager fans awaited Ross Gay after his reading at the AWP 2015 Conference in Minneapolis. He was happy to engage with each of them and even took the time to doodle in a few of his books.
Gratitude 9: His poems speak for themselves
ode to the flute
A man sings
by opening his
mouth a man
sings by opening
his lungs by
turning himself into air
a flute can
be made of a man
nothing is explained
a flute lays
on its side
and prays a wind
might enter it
and make of it
a small final song
Gratitude 10: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
If we haven’t convinced you yet you will just have to get the book and see for yourself: