Winner, 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, poetry category
Winner, 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize
Finalist, 2015 National Book Award, poetry category
Finalist, 2015 NAACP Image Awards, poetry category
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.
Gay (Bringing the Shovel Down) drops a third collection that follows through on its title's promise: these simple, joyful poems read like a litany of what's good in the world. Fig trees are high on the list, along with friendship and the act of appreciation itself. "I am grateful," he writes in the title poem. "I just want us to be friends now, forever./ Take this bowl of blackberries from the garden./ The sun has made them warm./ I picked them just for you." Gay welcomes readers into his garden for playful strolls, for the work of pruning and harvesting to bear witness to a mind working its hardest to appreciate the world. He assumes the presence of an "ancestor who loved you/ before she knew you." Gay's incessant positivity takes a toll even on him, as evidenced by his occasional lament that he can't actually feel gratitude about or make beauty from the worst things in life. In a poem about a deceased friend, he admits, "I swore when I got into this poem I would convert/ this sorrow into some kind of honey." Gay is known for his exuberant live readings, and though these poems don't translate perfectly to the page, they're inspiring nonetheless.