The selection for Multnomah County Library’s community reading project, Everybody Reads, is acclaimed author and poet Ross Gay and his collection of essays, The Book of Delights.
Each year, in partnership with the Multnomah County Library and The Library Foundation, Literary Arts presents the culminating event of the program—an author lecture. The event will be held virtually on Thursday, April 8 at 6:00 p.m (PDT).
Learn more about Ross Gay, and check out all the Library’s additional programming, before the event!
Each year, Multnomah County Library selects a title for their Everybody Reads program. Extra copies of The Book of Delights are available to borrow, and the Library has a broad selection of discussion groups and other events and activities for readers to engage more deeply.
Everybody Reads encourages us all to celebrate the power of books to create a stronger community. Through a shared reading experience, we discuss issues that matter, learn from each other, and promote greater understanding.
Learn more about Everybody Reads, and check out related discussion groups and events on the Library’s website here.
In times of darkness, it can be more important than ever to seek out joy. In this recorded interview with Ari Shapiro for NPR’s All Things Considered, Gay discusses his inspiration for The Book of Delights and what the daily practice of identifying joy has taught him.
Can optimism improve one’s craft? In this interview with Writer’s Digest, Gay shares how subtle shifts in perspective positively affect his writing.
In addition to writing poetry and essays, Gay is a sports fanatic and keen gardener.
In this interview with PEN America, Gay talks about his current obsessions, as well as what he sees as his responsibility as a writer.
Interested in more? Below is a bio of Ross Gay’s life and writing career thus far.
Ross Gay is an award-winning poet, creative writing professor, and keen orchardist and gardener. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Gay grew up in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania suburbs. His early passions tended toward sports, especially football and basketball, but he fell in love with poetry while attending Lafayette College. Gay reflects, “I wasn’t doing well in school, and I had an English teacher who could probably see that I was not tuned in. He had me give a presentation on Amiri Baraka’s poems. I read the poem ‘An Agony. As Now.’ and then I became interested in poems.”
Gay discovered a powerful outlet in writing poetry: “I was definitely feeling alienated in various ways, and feeling some unarticulated rage and sorrow about a number of things. Once I got introduced to the right poems, I became aware of maybe a way to express those things, articulate them.” Gay went on to earn an MA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in English from Temple University.
Gay has published three poetry collections: Against Which, Bringing the Shovel Down, and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and an NAACP Image Award. Of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, fellow poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil has noted, “Few contemporary poets risk singing such a singular compassion for the wounded world with this kind of inimitable musicality, intelligence, and intoxicating joy.”
His first book of nonfiction, the essay collection The Book of Delights, was published in 2019. A project he began on his 42nd birthday, The Book of Delights is comprised of short lyric essays written over a tumultuous year. A New York Times Bestseller, the collection reminds us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders. With this collection, Gay asks, “What is the practice of looking slowly and intensely at our lives? What we often will find is that there’s tons of remarkable stuff happening in our midst, and if we look up from whatever it is that’s distracting us… then it’s everywhere.” United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith praised the collection thusly: “Ross Gay’s eye lands upon wonder at every turn, bolstering my belief in the countless small miracles that surround us.”
Looking toward the future, Gay notes that, as a writer, “My responsibility now feels to be, among two thousand other things, to explore what is lovely and necessary and to be adored and cared for and held up.” His most recent title, Be Holding, is a book-length poem released in September 2020. Drawing on Gay’s lifelong love of sports, the poem is an ode to the legendary basketball player Julius Erving—known as Dr. J—who dominated courts in the 1970s and ‘80s as a Philadelphia ‘76er.
Gay has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Cave Canem, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He teaches Creative Writing at Indiana University, and is also a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, and an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. He is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit, volunteer-run, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project, and also works on The Tenderness Project with Shayla Lawson and Essence London.