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WKCTC Welcomes Ross Gay, Author of "The Book of Delights, for 2022-23 One Book Read

WKCTC presents Ross Gay as part of its One Book Read program on Tuesday, March 14th, and Wednesday, March 15th.
WKCTC presents Ross Gay as part of its One Book Read program on Tuesday, March 14th, and Wednesday, March 15th.

The West Kentucky Community and Technical College's One Book Read project began in 2008 to encourage reading across various groups of community members in hopes of helping to eliminate illiteracy in our region. This year, WKCTC's One Book Read event centers around author and poet Ross Gay's New York Times best-selling book of essays, The Book of Delights. Austin Carter speaks to Gay ahead of the One Book Read events.

From the WKCTC website:

"The Book of Delights, winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry, offers up a spirited collection of short lyrical essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders. The Book of Delights is about our shared bonds, and the rewards that come from a life closely observed. These remarkable pieces serve as a powerful and necessary reminder that we can, and should, stake out a space in our lives for delight."

Inspiration to write an essay about life's simpler delights came to Gay while on a writing retreat in Italy. "I was walking home from this little cafe in town up to my lodgings. Everything was feeling delightful—there were sunflower fields all around, and I thought I should write an essay about this feeling. And then, very quickly, it sort of occurred to me that I should actually try to write an essay every day for a year about something that delighted me. So, that's really what the book is [starting on my birthday on] August 1, 2016, to August 1, 2017. I tried to find something every day that constituted to me a slight. Then, I sat and thought about it and wrote an essay about it," Gay recalls.

Book of Delights was a departure from Gay's usual format of poetry, which he said "was on its own time to an extent." He recounts feeling less intimidated by the idea of writing essays. "The word 'essay' just means 'to attempt.' I thought, yeah, I can try something every day and see what happens." Gay says that he soon realized that his essays were not only writing exercises but also exercises in paying attention. Still, he used plenty of poetry training in creating his pieces.

"When I think of my training, I think of what I've read and who I've been taught by," Gay says. "My teachers like Thomas Lux, Gerald Stern, Marie Howe, Maurice Manning. There is a way that poems are inclined to find the music in a language. I think that's something I spend a lot of attention to as far as essays go. I might spend more time on things like the music, the syntax of a sentence, the way that things unfold."

"I think that attention to the dandelions growing in your yard or the way that the hummingbirds come in and out, the way your neighbor walks down the street. I'm not saying that poets see things special. I'm suggesting we practice what we practice," he says. "If we practice looking closely and paying attention to stuff, then we'll notice stuff. That might be the thesis of the book."

Gay says that although the book focuses on life's simpler delights, there are also less pleasant issues the essays address. "The book doesn't at all suggest that our heartbreak is not substantial. It suggests that, in the midst of that, is it possible for us to also notice what is remarkable? What is gobsmackingly beautiful? Is it possible in the midst of our sorrow to also notice what is caring for us, tending to us? If young folks get anything from this book, it's to pay attention to what you love. That'd make me glad."

Britton Shurley, WKCTC's One Book Committee Chair, said, "The committee thought this book, and all its joy, would be a perfect selection and vehicle for everyone to reflect on the hardships of the past few years while moving forward and recognizing the small, unique things which bring all of us delight. We envision this book as a way for our campus to support mental and physical health, focusing our campus’ attention upon a 'Year of Delights.' We wondered what it would look like, if campuswide, we each chose to focus on bringing more delight to students, faculty, and staff."

Gay's presentations at WKCTC are free and open to the public. See a full schedule below:

Tuesday, March 14, 2023
Clemens Fine Arts Center
Opening Reception: 6 pm
Public Presentation: Q&A, 7 pm
Book Signing: 8:15 pm

Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Clemens Fine Arts Center
Student Presentation: 11 am
Q&A and Book Signing to follow

For more information on the WKCTC One Book Read program, visit its website. You can also visit Ross Gay's websitefor more information about him and his work, including his upcoming second Book of Delights, which he has recently finished.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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