Reviews & Praise for Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
"Gratitude feels like the first time you open the window in spring. That first chilly air. The sun on the sill."
—Francine J. Harris, "Harriet," a Poetry Blog at the Poetry Foundation. Read more here.
“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.”
—Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works: Selected Essays
“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.”
Praise & Reviews: Bringing the Shovel Down
"I come away from this poem ["Love, You Got Me Good"] feeling as though I've witnessed a failed breakup with a co-dependent lover who looks a lot like America, and this suspicion turns the poem's final "Don't know what I'd do without you" into an indictment of the speaker, an acknowledgment of his — or, rather, our — complicity in the dark doings of the nation that houses us."
—Tracy K. Smith, "Top Three Poems of 2011," National Public Radio
"...Gay shears off the 'poetic' trappings and just lets his language 'stutter and thrum,' as he puts it in a poem called 'Say It.'"
—New York Times Book Review
"Ross Gay's second poetry collection, Bringing the Shovel Down, is an artfully honest book"
—Thomas Devaney, philly.com
"Gay has not constructed a series of poems that only bear witness to tragedy, nor has he lyrically unfolded a picnic blanket on which to display sheer riches. Rather, he has pointed his mind outside of himself so to show readers the world they live in."
—Kelly Alsup, Bombay Gin Literary Journal
"There is a difference between autobiography and experience, confession and witness. Gay’s first-person speaker is a mask for all of us trying to learn that habit and tradition are two different things, that the way things always are is merely the way we always let them be. While his poetry narrative begins with bruises and torments, his illumination is that he must break the mold while being guided by archetypes and not to let ironic confusions beguile or tempt him. These good poems of life are really poems about evolving his mind, healing it and strengthening it without losing touch with the world, like a new music sampling the old."
—Barrett Warner, Loch Raven Review
"These poems speak out of a global consciousness as well as an individual wisdom that is bright with pity, terror, and rage, and which asks the reader to realize that she is not alone—that the grief he carries is not just his own. Gay is a poet of conscience, who echoes Tomas Transtromer's 'We do not surrender. But want peace.'"
"Ross Gay is some kind of brilliant latter-day troubadour whose poetry is shaped not only by yearning but also play and scrutiny, melancholy and intensity. I might be shocked by the bold, persistent love throughout Bringing the Shovel Down if I wasn’t so wooed and transformed by it."
Praise & Reivews for Against Which
What Ross Gay sees, what he sings about, is a crippled woman taking a walk in her wheel-chair through the agency of the poet’s strong hands; or two brothers embracing in the death chamber, and the untranslatable song between them; or recovery from pain coalescing with the beginning of spring; or the glorious sexy vision of an ankle, or a midriff; or the blue whale’s deep-sea love scream; or football season in late October. He also sings about the rage and violence inside and the urge to destroy; and the horror of Alzheimer’s; and murder; and cancer; and butchered animals and cannibalism; and lynching; and the bullet’s journey—almost, almost too neatly the reverse side of the coin, as if one could prove the other—or lived by the other—as if, in the dream of light, he cannot allow himself to forget the darkness, he is so given over to the honest and accurate rendering, or as if he allows himself a final affirmation so long as he admits, or incorporates, the negative.
Whether he’s talking about the pain of slavery or a child being beaten up on a playground, Ross Gay’s Against Which suggests poetry as the way by which we might understand “birth’s phantom limb.” It makes me think of poetry in an entirely new way.
What a hammer, what a velvet wrecking ball, what a rip tooth saw Against Which is! Ross Gay is a terrific poet of enormous energies and gifts whose poems both “terrify and comfort,” as Berryman put it. This is a book with which we must reckon: read it live.