I am usually one who avoids reading, let alone reviewing, books until hype had died down. I didn’t change that protocol for Ross Gay and his absolutely sublime Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude even though I had read a poem by him that I absolutely loved in Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Even though I am a poet, it is very rare for me to say that I love a poet’s work because more often than not, I don’t. A poet has to have very special qualities for me to add them to my “love to read” column. I’m sure that they are more academically-educated poets who will wax enthusiastic about Mr. Gay utilizing all the academic terminology at their disposal. This is not that type of review for the simple reason that his poetry makes me happy and yes, grateful.

My feeling (not thought) is dual: he is loved…and he loves those who love him and perhaps fundamentally, loves our planet, Earth. When he writes in “to the mulberry bush” of gobbling berries that a bird has shit on, I feel his joy, his temporal disgust, his delight, his journey from bird to bush to his relationship, I feel the “unabashed gratitude”. As I wrote earlier, he is loved and loves those who love him and our planet and it comes across so clearly, so delightedly, I feel my own unabashed gratitude for his poetry.

That is, essentially, what I wanted to express about this physically slim yet spiritually huge book of poetry: unabashed gratitude.

 

Poetically speaking, growing up is mediocrity
– Ned Rorem

Neither rosy nor prim
not cousin to the cowslip
nor the extravagant fuchsia-
I doubt anyone has ever
picked one for show,
though the woods must be fringed
with their lemony effusions.

Sun blathers its baronial
endorsement, but they refuse
to join the ranks. Summer
brings them in armfuls,
yet, when the day is large,
you won’t see them fluttering
the length of the road.

They’ll wait until the world’s
tucked in and the sky’s
one ceaseless shimmer-then
lift their saturated eyelids
and blaze, blaze
all night long
for  no one.

 

Excerpted from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry