Westminster celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Westminster Poet Series with a visit by award-winning poet Ross Gay March 2-3. Each year, the English Department invites a major poet to campus to give a reading and visit English classes.
A professor of English at Indiana University, Ross is the author of three books of poetry: “Against Which,” “Bringing the Shovel Down,” and “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His collection of lyric essays, “The Book of Delights,” which was released last year, received wide acclaim.
Ross is also a co-author of the chapbooks “Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens,” and “River.” He is a founding editor of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin’, in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. The recipient of numerous fellowships, he earned a B.A. from Lafayette College, an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and a Ph.D. from Temple University.
During a reading for students and faculty in Werner Centennial Center, Ross talked about writing daily essays for “The Book of Delights,” and he read a number of the pieces. The book was an all-school summer reading selection last year.
Students also studied Ross’s poems in “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” as well as selections from his earlier books of poetry. During class visits, he responded to questions and read requested poems or essays.
“I really like writing poems and am really lucky,” he told the students. He shared that he is a voracious reader, does not write to a specific audience and creates many drafts during his writing process.
When asked for writing tips, he replied, “A good idea as a writer is to be interested in the question and be motivated by what you don’t know and not what you do know.”
“One of the great things about the Westminster Poet Series is that all of the 20 poets who have visited Westminster since 1999 have been very good poets with very interesting personalities,” said English teacher Michael Cervas P’96, ’01, ’10, who directs the series. “But without a doubt, Ross Gay was the most engaging of the poets we have had so far. Even students who think they don’t like poetry really liked Ross. His poems are so real and so interesting that young readers don’t even know that they are in the presence of one of the best of the younger American poets. That’s a win-win situation for all of us.”
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