Back in February, I bought a slim volume of poetry because I loved the cover – a bright floral abstract and the title, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay. I flipped to the first page – a poem about figs. Figs – my Grandpa Charlie’s favorite and my favorite too. I often splurge and buy a basket of them when they are in season, slice them in half and enjoy them twice as long, not sharing a single one of them with anyone! All to myself – those figs are my treasure. So yes, I knew I would love this book. But of course, in my true inconsistent fashion, I forgot about the book before I read all of it, and it became wedged between my countless notebooks on my my bookshelf.
Last week, as I was ready to go off on vacation, I was looking for a sweet summer read. I pulled out the book, returned to the figs and was mesmerized. I read on and on trying to uncover the rhythm, welcoming the repetition, wondering how this young, gay, Black professor from Youngstown, Ohio composed words in lines I wished were my own. I invite you to dip into the nectar of his words.
Gay takes mundane things: buttoning his shirt, sleeping in his clothes, drinking water from his hands and creates a cadence you can’t help but read aloud and wonder: “How does he do that?” Something about the arrangement of his words and the sounds he created encouraged me to read his words aloud. There is something so powerful – not just in the images, but in the sounds in composed. I read the book cover to cover, and over and over, trying to get his genius to repeat in my brain. Rereading his words opened the floodgates of sorrow and beauty, and I began to write poetry again. For this, I am grateful.
Room 109 by Joanne L. Emery
The hotel used to be a sturdy and elegant bank,
On a street corner in Old Montreal:
A historic landmark, a fortress now for art:
Warhol, Indiana, Hirst, Magritte, Miro –
And there in the gilded frame
Against the pale yellow wall,
Monet’s garden peaks out:
Corner of Garden at Montgeron
Peaceful greens and blues,
Speckled pinks and dappled yellows –
Brushed into being
To soothe me as I sit
In the yellow chair by the window