Lively Arts Program: Poet Ross Gay Visits the MS

Contributed by MS English and History teacher Matt Trowbridge '98. Scroll to the bottom for a Flickr album of photos:

In three sessions on Monday, May 10, Princeton Day School Middle School students were engaged and inspired by the exuberant Ross Gay. The world-renowned poet, essayist, gardener, athlete, teacher, coach (and more) shared with us his writing process and commitment to finding joy and delight in the everyday. Mr. Gay also shared pieces from his published books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

The Fifth Grade was treated to a poem and two short essays highlighting Mr. Gay’s deep gratitude for gardens and nature before joining Pam Flory in the PDS garden, where they helped broadcast native grass seeds to restore the balance of our beautiful meadow. 

The Sixth Grade had spent some time searching for sports (or any extracurricular interest) images that tell a bigger story than what is shown, inspired by Ross Gay’s newest release Be Holding, from which he read his awestruck account of Dr. J, who seemed to fly in the 1980 NBA Finals. 

The third and final session with the 7th and 8th Grades explored the Daily Writing Practice that students have begun in English classes. After reading several selections from his Book of Delights, Mr. Gay aided two volunteer students (Ellie Turchetta '25 and Rohan Sukumar '25) in expanding upon passages in their journals; he used the opportunity to inspire the rest of the students with additional writing prompts (future delights) to consider adding to theirs as well. 

Overall, this visit showed students to see all that can be done with poetry and writing in general. As writers and as individuals, they do not have to confine themselves to following one direction. Ross Gay left students with the precise counsel: To notice what they love, to write it down and wonder about it, and then to share it with others. 

A Small Needful Fact

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

In this video clip with 5th Grade, Mr. Gay expresses the sense of gratitude that he finds in gardening:

Mrs. Flory with the 5th grade as part of 2021 Lively Arts

View our Flickr Album for photos of Ross Gay's visit with the MS as part of the Lively Arts program.

Photos (from top): Ross Gay on the DTEN reading an excerpt from "Be Holding" to sixth graders; Garden Coordinator Pam Flory instructing fifth graders as they begin to plant grass seeds throughout Kristy's Meadow after listening to Ross Gay's presentation

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