Like one big celebration bursting with joy . . . Gay's poems burst forth in leggy, unexpected ways, zooming in on legs furred with pollen or soil breast-stroking into the xylem. Gay's praise is Whitmanesque, full of manure, mulberry-stained purple bird poop, dirty clothes and hangovers, but also the pleasure of bare feet, of pruning a peach tree, of feeding a neighbor. . . . Whether you're feeling like you have a whole brass band of gratitude or if you're feeling like you only have a rusty horn, read this book. Gay even thanks you for reading it, saying I can't stop my gratitude, which includes dear reader, you for staying here with me, for moving your lips just so as I speak.
Winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is a sustained meditation on that which goes away—loved ones, the seasons, the earth as we know it—that tries to find solace in the processes of the garden and the orchard. That is, this is a book that studies the wisdom of the garden and orchard, those places where all—death, sorrow, loss—is converted into what might, with patience, nourish us.
Ross Gay is a fresh voice in American poetry. His poems are fast-paced, carefully crafted with great attention to detail of those he writes about and the images that surround him. His poetry consists of beautiful metaphors and startling images.
I'm bowled over by how Ross Gay reaches again and again toward stating what's beautiful, what's sweet, what's most emotionally moving to him: he is genuinely 'unabashed.' He is definitely interested in the sentimental, but the poems don't feel remotely treacly to me. They feel bold and wild and weird.
Ross Gay offers up a muscled poetry of a thousand surprises, giving us a powerful collection that fireworks even the bleakest nights with ardency and grace. Few contemporary poets risk singing such a singular compassion for the wounded world with this kind of inimitable musicality, intelligence, and intoxicating joy.
These poems are shout-outs to earth's abundance: the fruits, blooms, meals, insects, waters, conversations, trees, embraces, and helping hands—the taken-for-granted wonders that make life worth living, even in the face of death. Lyric and narrative, elegy and epithalamion, intoxicated and intoxicating—expansive, but breathlessly uttered, urgent. Ross Gay has much to say to you—yes, dear reader, you—and you definitely want to hear it.
In this bright book of life, Ross Gay lopes through the whole alphabet of emotions, from anger to zest. Merely considering the letter 'R,' for example, these poems are by turns racy, rollicking, reflective, rambunctious, raunchy, and rhapsodic. Praise and lamentation rub shoulders, along with elegy and elation, and every page is dazzling.
Unabashed gratitude may be what Gay most wants us to notice and appreciate in his work, but getting-to-the-point is the most unabashed gesture of his project. Yet in his most vibrant poems, the getting-there is much more affecting than his destinations. The embracing, intimate sound of his speech is the pleasure.
A compelling look at the nature of the confessional poem, as well as the creative process.
Almost no one has the faith Gay seems to have in poetry's ability to tap grace from the happenings of his life. . . . He looks to the act of writing as real alchemy, and death, disappointment, and inequity become honey in his hands.
Ross Gay is the author of two previous collections, Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Orion, the Sun, and elsewhere. He is an associate professor of poetry at Indiana University and teaches in Drew University’s low-residency MFA program in poetry. He also serves on the board of the Bloomington Community Orchard.