Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Levittown, Bucks County
Author of the 2006 collection Against Which, Ross Gay became a poet while studying at Lafayette College.
Awards: Public Poetry Project
Poet Ross Gay grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, playing football and basketball. While attending Lafayette College, he fell in love with poetry and has published award-winning collections since, including Catalog of Unabased Gratitude (2015).
Ross Gay was born in Youngstown, Ohio, but moved to Philadelphia at a young age. He attended Lafayette College, playing basketball and football. There, he double majored in English and Art, inspired by his professors Ed Kerns and Lee Upton, who gave him his first real interactions with poetry and art. He went on to Sarah Lawrence College for a Master of Arts in Poetry and then completed his Ph.D. at Temple University.
Gay worked as an instructor at the Montclair State University as well as for the low-residency program at the New England College for a time. He went back to Lafayette in 2001 to act as the Dean of Studies Humanities Fellow for a year, where he taught various art courses. His friends describe his paintings as, "...an amalgam of words and images, and other special constructs. His art shows a broad cultural expansion and inclusiveness. He has a sophisticated, intellectual approach as opposed to emotional art-based work." His love of words extends from his artwork onto the page.
Gay published his first collection of poetry, Against Which, in 2006. Fellow poet Thomas Lux says of the work, "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."
Gay's poetry is vibrant and full of imagery, exploring everything from the basketball court to conceptions of time to his father.
In 2011, Gay published his second poetry collection, Bringing the Shovel Down. "These poems speak out of a global consciousness as well as an individual wisdom that is bright with pity, terror, and rage," said esteemed poet Jean Valentine. "Gay is a poet of conscience, who echoes Tomas Transtromer's 'We do not surrender. But want peace.'"
A poem correspondence between Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil resulted in their cowriteen chapbook Lace & Pyrite (2014), and the two say of the collected poems: It is our hope that some of the pleasure and anxiety of tending these gardens—which is to say, tending to ourselves, our relationships, our earth—comes through in these poems, written over the course of about a year.
Ross also coauthor River (2014), a nonfiction collection of local/personal & collective/historical erasure of the Jordan River in Bloomington, Indiana, as decribed by its publisher Monster House Press. His collecction Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (2015) won both the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2016) and the National Book Critics Circle Award (2015).
Ross Gay, at the time of this writing, is an Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of Creative Writing at Indiana University-Bloomington. According to his website, is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Fellow Pennsyvlania poet, Terrance Hayes says of Gay, [He]is some kind of brilliant latter-day troubadour whose poetry is shaped not only by yearning but also play and scrutiny, melancholy and intensity.
Against Which. Fort Lee: CavanKerry Press, 2006.
Bringing the Shovel Down. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.
"Ross Gay '96 is in Art Exhibit and Poetry Reading at Portlock Black Cultural Center." Lafayette Campus Events and News. 2 May 2001. 26 February 2007. <http://www.lafayette.edu/news.php/view/1786/>. Page content replaced.