“BRILLIANT.” —Ada Limón, U.S. poet laureate
An intimate and electrifying collection of essays from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Delights.
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2022
In these gorgeously written and timely pieces, prizewinning poet and author Ross Gay considers the joy we incite when we care for each other, especially during life’s inevitable hardships. Throughout Inciting Joy, he explores how we can practice recognizing that connection, and also, crucially, how we can expand it.
In “We Kin,” Gay thinks about the garden (especially around August, when the zucchini and tomatoes come in) as a laboratory of mutual aid; in “Share Your Bucket,” he explores skateboarding’s reclamation of public spaces; he considers the costs of masculinity in “Grief Suite”; and in “Through My Tears I Saw,” he recognizes what was healed in caring for his father as he was dying.
In an era when divisive voices take up so much airspace, Inciting Joy offers a vital alternative: What might be possible if we turn our attention to what brings us together, to what we love?
Taking a clear-eyed look at injustice, political polarization, and the destruction of the natural world, Gay shows us how we might resist, how the study of joy might lead us to a wild, unpredictable, transgressive, and unboundaried solidarity. In fact, it just might help us survive.
Poet Gay (The Book of Delights) examines in this stunning collection how joy deepens when accompanied by grief, fear, and loss. In "Joy and Losing Your Phone," he describes relying on the help of strangers; "Joy and Death" is a reflection on losing his father to cancer; "Joy and Time" covers the privilege of not being "on the clock"; and in "Joy and Laughter," he observes that "one of laughter's qualities is that it can draw us together." Gay gracefully turns from lighter pleasures (imagining a book about great album covers, for instance) to confronting cruelties, such as racist violence or the "brutal economy" of capitalism. "Grief Codex," the longest and most intricate essay, touches on football, toxic masculinity, couples therapy, and grief: "we might always be holding each other through our falling," Gay concludes, positing that "holding each other through the sorrow" is one definition of joy. Gay's curiosity is present on every page ("I am a fan of the digression," he writes) and his precise yet playful prose sparkles: a friend wears "a goldfinch of a grin," while a mall parking lot "away from the cast even of the aged streetlights" is a safe space. This resonant, vivid meditation shouldn't be missed. Agent: Liza Dawson, Liza Dawson Assoc.