The title of creative writing professor Ross Gay’s latest poetry collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, turned out to be prophetic.
Gay really does have a lot to be grateful for. The collection was a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Gay also won the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a $100,000 prize that is intended to give mid-career poets the means to reach the pinnacle of their craft.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Gay studied at Lafayette College, Sarah Lawrence University, and Temple University, before joining IU in 2007, where he is now an associate professor in the English Department and the director of the department’s creative writing program.
Gay is a passionate gardener and a member of the founding board of the Bloomington Community Orchard. Last year, in response to a question about the practical uses of poetry, Gay spoke about poetry as a “version of nourishment,” remarking that when he listened to a poem by someone he loved, “you will see a kind of cellular response that will be in some way not unlike if I ate a bowl of greens and chickpeas.”
In fact, the Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude can also be regarded a plant catalog, the kind that gardeners love to pore over during the long, fallow winter months. The poems are full of mouth-watering descriptions of the bountiful fruits and flowers of gardens and orchards. As Gay writes in the title poem: “I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude/over every last thing.”