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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 Ross Gay

Photo of Ross Gay by Natasha KomodaPhotograph by Natasha Komoda

"[Ross Gay] has authored four books of poetry: Against Which (CavanKerry Press, 2006); Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011); Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015); and Be Holding (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020). His collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released by Algonquin Books in 2019; and his new book of essays, Inciting Joy, [was released] by Algonquin in October, 2022. Through his writing, he explores both the sweetness and tenderness of joy, and its wildness and labor. 'It’s rigorous, more rigorous I think than misery. To me, joy is as much about being able to hold each other’s sorrows as it is having a good day' (Wisconsin Public Radio). Now a professor at Indiana University, Gay lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy program."

Excerpt from: https://www.arts.gov/initiatives/nea-big-read/catalog-unabashed-gratitude

Learn more about Ross Gay by visiting: https://www.rossgay.net/

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."

From https://www.arts.gov/initiatives/nea-big-read/catalog-unabashed-gratitude

Interested in attaining a 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

  • Hike & Write at Helen McCabe State Park: A KEEN Shrub-Stepp Event

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

All NEA Big Read events are free and open to the public. Please check this page regularly for updates. 
Event
Details
Date, Time, & Location
Letters from a Garden:
Writing & Planting at the Wildcat Neighborhood Farm

Join us for a writing and gardening workshop at CWU's Wildcat Neighborhood Farm inspired by Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude's fascination with the garden as the site of collective joy and community. Participants will weed, plant, write and read under the guidance of the CWU Wildcat Farm Manager and a local writer. Free custom notebooks and pencils will be provided. Each participant will receive a seedling starter, a copy of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, and the first 20 participants will also receive a copy of Lace & Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Hosted by the CWU Wildcat Neighborhood Farm and the CWU English Department. No registration required.

Date: Saturday April 22nd
Time: TBD
Location: Corner of North Alder Street and East 14th Avenue. Parking is free on East 14th Avenue and along both sides of North Alder Street.
Maximum attendance capacity: 25
Strangers Maybe Never Again:
Knowing & Writing Wilson Creek

Ellensburg is interlaced with urban streams, many of them running underground. Wilson Creek, which runs directly through the heart of the city is one such creek. Join writer and poet Wendy Lee Spaček and a KEEN naturalist on a  walking tour and writing workshop focused on Wilson Creek and inspired by another one of Ross Gay's books, River, which consists of a series of meditations on urban waterways. Each participant will receive a free custom notebook and pencil, a walking map illustrated by Heather Dappen, and a copy of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. This workshop will depart from the Kittitas Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation Church. No registration required.

Date: Saturday April 29th
Time: 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Location: 400 N Anderson St. Ellensburg, WA 98926. Free parking is available in the church's parking lot; free parking is also available along both sides of Anderson Street and 4th Avenue.
Maximum attendance capacity: 25
Lion Rock Author Visit:
Ross Gay Craft Talk

Ross Gay will be visiting CWU to give a Craft Talk as part of CWU's Lion Rock Visiting Writers Series. This event will take place at CWU's James E. Brooks Library.

Date: Wednesday May 3rd
Time: 12 p.m - 1 p.m
Location: James E. Brooks Library. Attain a daily parking permit here.
Lion Rock Author Visit:
Ross Gay Public Reading

 

Ross Gay will give an in-person public reading as part of CWU's Lion Rock Series at CWU's Student Union and Recreation Center (SURC) Theater.

Date: Wednesday May 3rd
Time: 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Location: SURC Theater. It is recommended that visitors enter through the SURC east entrance. After 4:30 p.m. some parking zones at CWU do not require permits. Learn more here.
Strangers Maybe Never Again:
Writing Odes to Urban Wilds
This writing and walking workshop is inspired by Gay's poem "To the Fig Tree on 9th & Cristian" in which a group of strangers passing by a woman cleaning up the ruined fruit of her overburdened fig find themselves united in a haphazard harvest of figs. Likewise, join us as a group of strangers to embark on a walking writing workshop in downtown Ellensburg, guided by writer and poet Wendy Lee Spaček and a KEEN naturalist, composing odes to oft-overlooked urban wild spaces while learning about local plants and habitats. Each participant will receive a free custom notebook and pencil, a walking map illustrated by Heather Dappen, and a copy of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. This workshop will depart from the Ellensburg Public Library and will circle back in time for the Brass Band of Gratitude Celebration. No registration required.
Date: Saturday May 6th
Time: 10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Location: 209 N Ruby St, Ellensburg, WA 98926
Maximum attendance capacity: 25
Brass Band of Gratitude Celebration

Join us in a celebration of gratitude outside of the Ellensburg Public Library! This community celebration will include music by the Ellensburg Big Band, readings from local poets and writers, a live community art project by Heather Dappen, and so much more! Attendees will receive copies of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude.

 

Date: Saturday May 6th
Time: TBD
Location: 209 N Ruby St, Ellensburg, WA 98926
Hike & Write at Helen McCabe State Park: A KEEN Shrub-Steppe Event

Join us for a writing workshop and nature walk at Helen McCabe State Park, guided by Ellensburg's Poet Laureate, Marie Machland and KEEN naturalist, Jill Scheffer. Free custom notebooks and pencils will be provided and each participant will receive  a copy of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. This workshop will be part of KEEN's annual Get Intimate with the Shrub-Steppe (GISS) event! Please visit the GISS website to register for this event.

Date: Saturday May 13th
Time: 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Location: 24398 Canyon Rd, Ellensburg, WA 98926
Maximum attendance capacity: 25