Inciting Joy: Essays

Algonquin. Oct. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781643753041. $27. LIT
Award-winning poet Gay (Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude) ruminates on the concept and practice of bringing forth joy. Similar to his previous collection, The Book of Delights, the essays are short and potent. In this volume, he makes abundant use of footnotes, which function as a kind of shadow narrative, offering asides, further meanderings, and elaborations. The tone is one of riffing and improvisation, as though Gay is having a lively but leisurely conversation with the reader. He demonstrates that he views the incitement of joy as an act of resistance. Joy is to be found in the collective, whether it be a community garden, a game of pick-up basketball, a writing class, or the sense of kinship one feels when bearing—and surviving—a loss. He writes movingly about his relationship with his father, who passed away in 2004, as well as about some of his own hardships. Humor is seeded throughout the collection, and Gay cites writers ranging from John Edgar Wideman to Gwendolyn Brooks to Robin Wall Kimmerer. The book may make readers wish it didn’t end.
VERDICT Gay is a treasure, and his latest offering will delight his fans as well as those new to his work.
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