Ross Gay Archive
A few weeks after the release of his memoir, Sherman Alexie cancelled the second half of his national book tour. “I have been rebreaking my heart night after night,” he explained. Writing about pain had become a process of inflicting it on himself.
Ross Gay’s book-length poem suggests that within the horror show of objectified Black pain and the not-finished history of stolen Black bodies, the answer is a community that holds each other with care and beholds in Black lives not just suffering but life, dignity, complexity—and joy.
The fundamental thesis of Ross Gay’s new collection may be that joy, along with its cousins gratitude and delight, is itself political: not only do various experiences incite joy, but joy itself incites connection and even something like an ethic of care, a movement toward justice.
We could try to protect ourselves at this time from dread, despair, and our own fury; or, like Ross Gay, we could seek delight, and find through it a doorway into engagement in the world, painful as it might be.
Ross Gay’s new essay collection restores pleasure as a site of serious thought and, even more, as a mode in inquiry in itself, while his wholesome (but never saccharine) voice convinces us that a mode of inquiry, a way of thinking, too, can be pleasure itself.
For so long, I’ve heard academic poets and readers disparage poems written to be spoken aloud, condemning them as less thoughtful, as noisy and navel-gazey, their craft less delicate and considered.