Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
the racket in
said or did
some crime or
other the city they
say is a lonely
place until yes
the sound of sweeping
and a woman
yes with a
which you are now
too the canopy
of a fig its
arms pulling the
September sun to it
has a hose too
and so works hard
rinsing and scrubbing
lest some poor sod
on the silk
of a fig
and not probably
to gobble up
the veins in her hands
when I ask about
the tree they
flutter in the air and
she says take
as much as
so I load my
and she points
the wall to
I was without a
so my meager
plunder would have to
suffice and an old woman
was pulling into
the earth loosed one
from a low slung
branch and its eye
wept like hers
which she dabbed
with a kerchief as she
cleaved the fig with
what remained of her
teeth and soon there were
eight or nine
people gathered beneath
the tree looking into
it like a constellation pointing
you see it
and I am tall and so
and a bald man even
told me so
when I grabbed three
or four for
him reaching into the
giddy throngs of
stoned which he only
pointed to smiling and
rubbing his stomach
I mean he was really rubbing his stomach
it was hot his
head shone while he
offered recipes to the
group using words
I couldn’t understand and besides
I was a little
tipsy on the dance
of the velvety heart rolling
in my mouth
pulling me down and
down into the
oldest countries of my
body where I ate my first fig
from the hand of a man who escaped his country
swimming through the night
never said more than
five words to me
at once but gave me
figs and a man on his way
to work hops twice
to reach at last his
fig which he smiles at and calls
he says and blows a kiss
to the tree
which everyone knows
cannot grow this far north
and favoring the rocky, sun-baked soils
of Jordan and Sicily
but no one told the fig
or the immigrants
the fig tree grows
it seems, to hold us,
I am anthropomorphizing
goddammit I have twice
in the last thirty seconds
rubbed my sweaty
forearm into someone else’s
gleeful eating out of each other’s hands
on Christian St.
in Philadelphia a city like most
murdered its own
we are feeding each other
from a tree
at the corner of Christian and 9th
of Unabashed Gratitude, University of Pittsburgh Press
Poems - Prompt - Bio - Reviews - Interviews - Reading
Let's get out of the house for this one,
and let's let Ross Gay lead the way.
to a street corner on your block, in your neighborhood, somewhere you frequent, somewhere you've never been before...whatever!
Just pick a street corner, pick a random object on that corner (a tree, a broken car door handle in the gutter, a street sign,
a person, graffitti, again, whatever!), and across the top of the page write "To the ____ on ____ and ____" and
write, much as Gay does here, a stream-of-consciousness meditation on said object. Don't worry about linebreaks, bottom punctuation
(commas, periods, semi-colons) or logic; just write. When it feels right to turn personal, do it. When it feels right to expand
to the farthest regions of the universe, do that. Then take what you've got, see what themes run throughout, and start playing
with line breaks and how those breaks, again as Gay does here, helps make logical the otherwise illogical.
Poems - Prompt - Bio - Reviews - Interviews - Reading
Ross Gay is the author of three books: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner
of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Catalog was also a finalist
for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, the Ohioana Book Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize, the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award,
and it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
Ross is the co-author, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, of the chapbook "Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens," in
addition to being co-author, with Richard Wehrenberg, Jr., of the chapbook, "River." He is a founding editor,
with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin', in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. Ross is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf
Writer's Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Ross teaches at Indiana University.
_______________________________________________________________________________________Poems - Prompt - Bio - Reviews - Interviews
"Toward Something We've Known": A Review of Ross Gay's Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude by Francine J. Harris, first published by the Poetry Foundation
Poems - Prompt - Bio - Reviews - Interviews
You walk among the stars and are subject to the stars. You turn a corner and the air seems to turn with
you, to bend around you. A personal experiment of the senses, when you wake suddenly one morning and pull your body out of
the sheets, it’s as if the sheets are all of the earth rising with you. As if there is soil in the mattress and the
boxspring is thick of clay, and you wonder if you haven’t simply been soaking in the wet dirt, the red yank of the earth,
If there are two things I’d like you to have in mind as you read this post, the
first is Galway Kinnell’s poem “Crying” where he writes “Crying only a little bit / is no use. You must cry / until your pillow is soaked!”
The second is Morgan Parker’s “If You Are Over Staying Woke.” In talking about her poem, Parker says “when I kind of reached an end, I wasn’t sure that it was the end. It had this momentum that made
me feel like I could keep going for pages and pages.”
Thank god for momentum.
sown floor of your house, your basement, your bed, you emerge and with you, comes the chutes and stalk, pulling at dirt, and
when you emerge, you read these first lines:
Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
and maybe you have read that
before. Maybe you read it once when you were stammering to explain why you were averting from people’s eyes, or others’
joy. Maybe you are susceptible to believing difficulty is personal not national, or emotional not epidemic, and so if you
suspect the pain of others can be easily traced, or tracked, underground, you suspect it is like the buried root of an old
tree, the way you suspect it emerges just under the concrete. And that it rumbles up like this.
I want to say that Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is not just timely. This
book, which so beautifully celebrates, no revels in, the poet's relationship to the earth, to his garden, to the people of
his community, to family—I want to suggest in this national moment, it strikes me as breath. It is breath from that
exhaustion that Morgan Parker is talking about. So many of us felt it. Feel it. The poet of color is not expected to
breathe, and certainly not to breathe by being grateful, being thankful. Or if we do, it gets so easily confused with some
sort of shuffling, mumbling glee at our circumstance. But this gratitude, the thankfulness of this book, steeped in a grounded
mindfulness, in a sincerity some might call grit, Gratitude feels like the first time you open the window in spring. That first
chilly air. The sun on the sill.
Our relationship to the world which flowers for us is
so often tied up in deference, in a borrowed gaze. We can see it happening, but it is not ours. Or. We are black, we don’t do nature. Or.
Nature wants in (how many of us have that damn cockroach poem whether or not we ever had roaches!). Nature as a sign of decay.
Nature as something removed and threatening. Nature as that from which we are grateful so far from, to have come. You can
substitute, anywhere you like, nature for joy. It’s the dirt and all that’s in it, that Gay revels in, and revelry
is a gift. Consider these gorgeous sections from the long poem, “Sharing with the Ants”:
when by fluke or whim
prayer I jostled the crotch-high
fig tree whose few fruit had been
scooped by our fat friends
found shriveled and purple
into an almost testicular papoose …
beneath the fronds
of a few leaves
stalwart fruit which
I immediately bit in half
only to find a small platoon
twisting in the meat …
slowing at my lips both
of our mouth sugared
and shining both of us …
second poem, which follows the title poem in Margaret Walker’s famous For
My People, is “Dark Blood.” ...
Continue reading at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2015/04/towards-something-weve-known
Listen/read a review of Catalogue
Read a review of Catalogue
An Interview wih Ross Gay by David Roderick, first published with the Rumpus'
Late Night Poetry Show
Gay is an unemployed kettlebell instructor and he is not a demolition man, cool as that sounds. He is the co-author of two
chapbooks (Lace & Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and River, with Richard Wehrenberg, Jr.) and author of three books of poetry,
the most recent of which is Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. He works with
a community orchard and grows lots of fruit.
When asked to share his turn-ons, Ross told our intern, J.D.:
I like people with loud-ass laughs.
People who laugh ’til they spit their food out or sob or beg or fall down. I like dancing. I like the actual smell of
the human body—often, not always. I like working in gardens. I like basketball. I like smelling things. I like dogs—not
sure that I’m turned on by them. I like cats, particularly two, named Daisy and Ginger—not exactly turned on by
them, but I spend a lot of time kissing them. Turned on by armpits. Loads and loads of turn-ons. I didn’t talk about
my sweetheart, but for The Rumpus Late Nite Poetry Show I’ll tell
you a few more things.
Oh I could go on, I’m realizing, forever on this. I’m turned on by this singer
my friend just introduced me to, forget her name. I’m turned on by harmony, as in people singing in harmony. I’m
turned on by people singing hard—like, intensely, not necessarily while erect, though that can be a turn on too. Turned
on and turned on. Turned on by the way some people move their hands while they talk. By the way some people pick things up.
A posture. A speaking voice. Turned on by the way bumblebees with their legs pry open the lippish mouths of false indigo flowers
in late spring, like really turned on. Spring turns me on. Fuck, does it. All the smells in my yard, for the most part—the
peach blooms, the apple blooms, the pear and Asian pear blooms, the latter of which smell like semen, by the way, which is
itself a kind of turn-on. The strawberries will turn me on, and get me on my hands and knees to prove it. Or the grape hyacinths,
also on my hands and knees to smell them, sometimes pushing through the smell. Sometimes the two cardinal thing. And cities
I don’t know well—and cities I do. Being in unfamiliar spaces turns me on. Being with familiar people I like turns
me on. Being with unfamiliar people I like turns me on. Being physically very hot, like sweaty and stuff, turns me on. Coconut
oil turns me on. Turned on by coffee in a café someplace I don’t really know. Small city parks. Louis Kahn park
in Philadelphia at 10th and Pine, I think. Basketball courts in unexpected places. Skateboarding. Hair. Building despite
wreckage. Community. Potlucks. Good veggie burgers. So many dreams. The
thing on the other side of the hill.
Ross is here to talk about his latest poetry book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, just out from the University of Pittsburgh Press.
The Rumpus: Dear sleepy-eyed viewers of America, when we invited our guest to visit this humble show, we
had no idea we were getting such a loveable, large-hearted man. Please give it up for Ross Gay! Welcome to the show, Ross!
Ross Gay: Thank you! Thank you so much.
Rumpus: Whoa. I think you’re maybe the tallest guest we’ve had. Comfortable enough
Gay: I’m pretty comfortable. I mean, for
a tall person.
Rumpus: Good, good. We’re excited you’re
here. Backstage has been abuzz all afternoon. That’s a hell of a list of turn-ons, by the way. J.D. was so rattled I
had to calm him with a donut.
Gay: Is that what we give the
rattled these days? How about a hug?
Rumpus: Ah, if only J.D. did
hugs. What’s the latest news from Indiana? Is there much to do in that garden of yours at this time of year?
Gay: My garden is seething with the good scraps me and my roomie throw out
from all our veggies and fruits. I mean the stuff right out the back door is probably about four inches think with, well,
you might call it trash. But it’s not, it’s banana peels and apple cores and all that stuff. And gonna cook down
and make those plants right close to the back door—a persimmon tree, two little plums, a patch of false indigo, and
some Nanking cherries and some grapes—freak the fuck out come spring. Excuse my language! The garden fires me up!
Rumpus: I’ve been reading about this garden in the new book, and it
sounds sexy enough. When do you typically head out to those plants and fruit trees and get going? I have no idea when spring
reaches your neck of the woods.
Gay: Oh, I’ll probably
start putting seeds for things like kale and collards and the Asian greens and even things like scarlet runner beans, which
are among the most beautiful things that grow, in March. Once I can work the soil a little bit. Might plant some favas this
year too, which dig the cool weather. By mid-March, for sure.
is one intense garden!
Gay: Oh you have no idea...
reading at http://therumpus.net/2015/03/the-rumpus-late-nite-poetry-show-9-ross-gay/
Read an interview with Gay
Listen to an interview with Gay
_______________________________________________________________________________________ Poems - Prompt - Bio - Reviews - Interviews