Ross Gay with Sam Stephenson

Ross Gay with Sam Stephenson

Sat   Mar   23   2024 - 2:00 PM Visit Knoxville Visitors Center

“Gay’s work is a reminder of all things tiny and beautiful, small but miraculous, ordinary yet magical.” – Brown Daily Herald

For several years when they were neighbors in Bloomington, Indiana, the writers Ross Gay and Sam Stephenson would get together – on walks, on porches, in backyards, in Gay’s letterpress studio, standing in front of the co-op grocery store – and talk about their work.  They quickly realized that their working methods were similar, with Gay using the term “lyric research” to describe one of Stephenson’s books.  “It has as much to do with poetry as nonfiction or documentary,” wrote Gay.  They found overlap in their efforts to deeply immerse in an archive or another human being, or group of human beings – listening – without knowing what exactly the results would be.  It’s a method of working that Simone Weill might have meant when she wrote, “Attention without objective is a supreme form of prayer.”

Still, there are needs – to eat, to pay bills, to get things done, to help others – that living in the world requires.  In this wide-ranging conversation Gay and Stephenson will explore their work involving a variety of topics, including writing, reading, documentary work, gardening, listening to music, playing basketball, and more.


Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of 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. In addition to his poetry, Ross has released three collections 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.


Sam Stephenson is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow.  He was also a judge for PEN America‘s 2019 literary prize in biography.  He has studied the life and work of photographer W. Eugene Smith since January 1997, following his footsteps in twenty-six states and Japan and the Pacific, conducting more than five hundred oral history interviews.  Gene Smith’s Sink (published August, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is the culmination of twenty years of work, often looking around the subject, distilled to spare essentials.

Knoxville, TN · USA



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