Grateful for Ross Gay’s CATALOG OF UNABASHED GRATITUDE
A common trend for the past decade has been to find happiness in life through gratitude. Rhonda Byrne’s The Magic is a 28-day journey to being grateful in all ways in all things (example: before she eats, she pantomimes shaking gratitude over her food in the same way you’d shake on some salt and pepper). Then there’s Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U.” The chorus overflows with thanks: “Thank you India…Thank you frailty…Thank you consequence…Thank you thank you silence.” This sense of being grateful appears in poetry, too. Enter Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Here’s why I’m thankful for it.
1. Body Positivity
“Feet” and “Armpit” are two poems that gab about body parts that don’t usually get a lot of love in literature or in life.
“Armpit” mentions armpits of two people, and some of it takes place in a library where a bookish woman appears. That means there’s even more to love because books.
“Feet” takes on the challenge of loving jacked-up feet in all their jacked-up-ed-ness.
2. Odes to Simple Things
“Ode to Buttoning and Unbuttoning My Shirt”—He calls this action a “gift” that “is not to be taken lightly.” He refers to the buttons as “thin disks / threaded here.” This simple thoughtless everyday act becomes the focus of razor-sharp attention. Yes, if we own a shirt, we should be thankful to own a shirt, especially if it has all its buttons. If we are able to button and unbutton it, we should be thankful to be able to slip those buttons in and out of those holes.
“Ode to Sleeping in My Clothes”—He refers to this action as a secret but it’s a source of happiness. If we have secretive joys, we should be thankful for them.
“Ode to Drinking Water from My Hands”—Here he connects this action with a memory of his grandfather in a garden. It’s so pretty and delicate.
Everyday movements, quite moments, elements of life we take for granted all find a place to shine here. This definitely makes me take a pause moment to moment to be thankful.
3. He thanks us a lot!
In the title poem towards the end, “catalog of unabashed gratitude,” he starts out by addressing “Friends” and it seems, at this point, that we are all his friends. A few stanzas later, he says, “And thank you, too. And thanks / for the corduroy couch I have put you on. / Put your feet up. Here’s a light blanket… / I can’t stop / my gratitude, which includes, dear readers, / you, for staying here with me.”
Swoooooon! First off, while writers who break the fourth wall usually aren’t my bag, this is totally my bag because he’s already reeled me in with his thankfulness. Secondly, he totally gets what this whole reading thing is all about. He knows how we’re curled up on a couch, cozy under a blanket, flipping through. Also, he simply “can’t stop”—he’s overflowing with gratitude, and that is so contagious!
At the end of that stanza, he offers us a cup of tea with honey. Could this be any more spot on? Absolutely not.
Other things he thanks that we should thank, too:
- “the tiny bee’s shadow”
- “god of gaudy”
- “paisley panties”
- “this knuckleheaded heart, this pelican heart, / this gap-toothed heart”
I’m not saying the collection doesn’t get dark. It does. It mentions death. It mentions violence. Despite those dark hours, gratitude shines through! That’s the lesson! That’s the joy! There aren’t enough exclamation points!
At first, I was going to save this for November because, you know, Thanksgiving. However, that would be totally missing the point. The point is that no matter what, we can and should be thankful at any time of year.
Quick! What are you thankful for in this very moment?
Looking for more on gratitude? Try Bookish Thankful Thoughts, and check out these poetry discussions.