Ross Gay teaches poetry at Indiana University and is the author of the poetry collections Against Which, Bringing the Shovel Down, Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens (with Aimee Nezhukumatathil), River (with Rose Wehrenberg), Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, and the essay collection The Book of Delights.
Be Holding is a love song to legendary basketball player Julius Erving—known as Dr. J—who dominated courts in the 1970s and ‘80s as a small forward for the Philadelphia ‘76ers, as well as over his career in both the NBA and ABA. But this book-length poem is more than just an ode to a magnificent athlete. Through a kind of lyric research, or lyric meditation, Ross Gay connects Dr. J’s famously impossible move from the 1980 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers to pick-up basketball and the flying Igbo and the Middle Passage, to photography and surveillance and state violence, to music and personal histories of flight and familial love. Be Holding wonders how the imagination, or how our looking, might make us, or bring us, closer to each other. How our looking might make us reach for each other. And might make us be reaching for each other. And how that reaching might be something like joy.
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is a sustained meditation on that which goes away—loved ones, the seasons, the earth as we know it—that tries to find solace in the processes of the garden and the orchard. That is, this is a book that studies the wisdom of the garden and orchard, those places where all—death, sorrow, loss—is converted into what might, with patience, nourish us.
Bringing the Shovel Down maps the long and arduous process of being inculcated with the mythologies of state and power, the ramifications of that inculcation (largely, the loss of our humanity in the service of maintaining those mythologies), and finally, what it might mean, what it might provide us, if we were to transform those myths. The book, finally, has one underlying question: How might we better love one another?