~from Cole Konopka

Portrait of Ross Gay by Natasha Komoda
Ross Gay, image by Natasha Komoda

Ross Gay is an activist, environmentalist, and most notably, an award-winning poet, whose prizes include a 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, both for his collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). Gay has planted roots in Bloomington, Indiana, where he serves as an Associate Professor of English at Indiana University and is a is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit free-fruit-for-all justice and joy project.

Ross Gay has been able to bring language and agriculture together naturally in his work and his life. As he puts it in an interview with Nicole Sealey for the National Book Foundation:

Gardening and poetry feel very closely related. I mean, besides both being something you work at and can be beautifying and nourishing and pleasing and all that—there’s something to the sort of metaphor work, the imaginative training that both crafts/vocations/pleasures involve or train in. That is, in making a garden, it seems to me, we’re often training in this kind of crazy imaginative work… an imaginative act, [that] requires that metaphor part of my brain (which is in my body, my stomach and taste buds and eyes and everywhere else), which (a-ha!) is like making poems![1]

Another aspect of Gay’s work lies open in the title, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, that feeling of joy and gratitude. When asked by Sealey about the book’s relationship with joy, Ross Gay responds:

While these poems reflect or express or document or imagine a kind of happiness, or possibly even joy, they are, like joy, made with (and very much about) an awareness that our lives are filled with difficulty, with pain. We age. Our friends are killed or die. Our family gets sick and dies. The planet, you know. And on and on. So the joyful poems are occasioned by the truth that we are suffering, we are dying, it is pain. I’m saying “joy” so much because I’ve been thinking about it, and seeking it, and think it is very much connected to the awareness of and fact of that pain. So it’s maybe a kind of cherishing—knowing that we are not together long.[2]

We at CSU are excited to hear Ross Gay read his work on April 26, in part because of the way he approaches reading to an audience. He explains in an LA Review of Books interview with Callie Siskel about his pleasure in reading:

One of the pleasures of writing poems for me is that it’s this real sort of intimate communication. Reading poems aloud is a way to let my body in time and space be the thing that’s communicating the poem, and that feels important. So that in itself is really moving, the opportunity to carry the poem with one’s body to people.[3]


Ross Gay reading announcement

Come hear Ross Gay read: Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Cherokee Park Ballroom.

As ever, this Creative Writing Series event is free and open to the public. Because we expect a sizable audience, we would appreciate if you registered your interest in attending this event. To RSVP, go to https://advancing.colostate.edu/EVENTS/CWRS

The CSU Creative Writing Reading Series is made possible by the support of the CSU English Department, the College of Liberal Arts Thematic Year on Diversity, Inclusion and Free Speech, the donor sponsor of the Crow-Tremblay Alumni Reading Series, and other generous support. Please visit english.colostate.edu for more information about how to become a donor.


[1] http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2015_p_gay_interv.html#.Ws4Y8hPOUch

[2] ibid

[3] https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-terrible-and-the-possible-an-interview-with-ross-gay/#