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Poetry Moment: 'Thank You', by Ross Gay

Poet Ross Gay
Poet Ross Gay

This is Poetry Moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, author of twenty books, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University

Some poems are meant for carrying around in your pocket or for taping above your desk. You need to experience them every day. Today’s poem, “Thank You” by Ross Gay, is like that. Let it enter your life. Its images and insights remind us to inhabit this moment, this now.

Ross Gay grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, playing football and basketball, and later attended Lafayette College, where he played football and discovered his love for poetry. He’s the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, which won the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller. Inciting Joy was released in 2022, and his newest collection, The Book of (More) Delights was released in September of 2023.

In his well-known villanelle, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas urges his ailing father to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” In today’s poem, Ross Gay acknowledges mortality but instead guides the reader toward joy and wonder. Accepting life’s seasons, he chooses gratitude over despair. He reminds us that every month—every day—we can embrace thanksgiving.

Here's “Thank You” by Ross Gay

If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth's great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden's dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
Thank you.

Ross Gay, "Thank You" from Against Which. Copyright © 2006 by Ross Gay. Reprinted by permission of CavanKerry Press Ltd.,

Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can view more episodes at moment.

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.