This week’s edition of Sprouts features potent personal testimony from poet-essayist Ross Gay – testimony emblematic of an era echoing the names of black men, and boys, like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Beginning with a commonplace encounter in our racist society, Ross Gay’s “Some Thoughts On Mercy” breaks open the murky and painful world of race that Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow) argues we need to enter together if we’re going to successfully short circuit the cycle of racial caste in the United States. Through the eyes of Ross Gay, our journey into that world of racial hurt, degradation, and separateness holds out the fragile possibility of redemption.
Ross Gay was born August 1, 1974 to a Black father and white mother in Youngstown, Ohio, but he grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. from Lafayette College, his MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and his Ph.D. in American Literature from Temple University, and is a basketball coach, an occasional demolition man and a painter.
He has taught poetry, art and literature at Lafayette College in Easton, PA and Montclair State University in New Jersey. He now teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and the low-residency MFA in poetry program at Drew University.
His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Columbia: A Journal of Poetry and Art, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry and Atlanta Review, and in anthologies including From the Fishouse (Persea Books, 2009). His honors include being a Cave Canem Workshop fellow and a Bread Loaf Writers Conference Tuition Scholar, and he received a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts