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NEA Big Read - CWU Libraries

This guide provides information on CWU Libraries' National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read programming taking place spring 2023.

About the NEA Big Read

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read supports community reading programs each designed around a single NEA Big Read book selection with the goal of inspiring meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community. The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Central Washington University (CWU) Libraries is one of 70+ nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project.

NEA Big Read: Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

CWU Libraries' NEA Big Read programming will be designed around Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

"A poet, educator, and community gardener, Ross Gay tends to joy as one would an orchard - from seedlings to harvest, through all seasons of growth. In his collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Gay demonstrates the practice of gratitude while never losing sight of the loss that animates it. Reading the book 'feels like the first time you open the window in spring. That first chilly air. The sun on the sill' (Poetry Foundation).

Through 24 lyric poems, Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude offers a luminous exploration of death, life, and their many tides. Animated by what Gay has called the 'discipline of gratitude,' the collection considers sorrow’s potential, grounded in the rhythms and abundance of the natural world: the compost that gives way to rich soil, the decay that reveals seeds, the branches that must be trimmed to make room for new growth. Mistakes can be landscapes of new possibilities, he seems to say. With warmth and gratitude and often humor, he roots his poems in deeply personal experiences while noting that impermanence is one of the threads that connect us: 'we have this common experience - many common experiences, but a really foundational one is that we are not here forever' (On Being).

Though suffering and sorrow wend their way through each poem, adopting various guises, they are met everywhere by a commitment to this cycle of transformation. Gay sees the twinning of loss and abundance as an astonishing opportunity for tenderness and joy, and the poems in Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude are intimate, conversational. 'I trust people who, in the same conversation, use more than one voice, more than one register. Maybe it speaks to a kind of urgency. But I think it might, more accurately, speak to a kind of intimacy,' Gay told the Rumpus. Throughout the collection, Gay addresses his readers directly, as an old friend might, and invites them to observe the gentle, loving labor of bees; to taste sweet fruit-flesh; to smell sweet potato biscuits frying in coconut oil; to stay awhile and sip honeyed tea; to leave, warm and fed, when they are ready to go; to know they will be missed."


Attaining a Free Copy of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

CWU Libraries will be giving away copies of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude at Gallery One during Ellensburg's First Friday Art Walk on March 3rd, April 7th, and May 5th. Additional copies will be given away at the following NEA Big Read events:

  • Letters from a Garden: Writing & Planting at the Wildcat Neighborhood Farm

  • Strangers Maybe Never Again: Knowing & Writing Wilson Creek

  • Brass Band of Gratitude Celebration

  • Strangers Maybe Never Again: Writing Odes to Urban Wilds

  • Walk & Write at Helen McCabe State Park: A KEEN Shrub-Steppe Event

You can also purchase this book from your local Ellensburg businesses: