Ross Gay, a leading American poet, author, editor, and advocate, was the visiting speaker for the ongoing Gray Colloquium Series at St. Mark's on February 20. The theme of this year's Gray Colloquium is Civil Discourse.
At St. Mark's, Gay had lunch with interested students and faculty, before speaking to the entire School community in the Putnam Family Arts Center's Class of 1945 Hall.There he read excerpts from The Book of Delights. Each piece, while entertaining and often funny, at the same time contained insights into topics as varied as guns, friendship, violence, and environmental sustainability. A firm believer in utilizing words for "rigorous play and necessary joy," Dr. Gay demonstrated that observation and thoughtful consideration can lead to discourse and understanding.
"It was very interesting," commented one St. Marker after the presentation. "He was funny, and it was fun," said another. "It was perfect," declared a faculty member following the reading. "It was just what we needed." Later that evening, during dinner, Dr. Gay held a poetry workshop in the Faculty Room. The event was filled to capacity with enthusiastic students.
Veteran St. Mark's English teacher Sarah McCann, herself a poet and the School's Gray Colloquium coordinator, is very pleased that she was able to schedule Dr. Gay as a visiting presenter this year. "I was charmed by Ross's words the first time I found his poetry," she said. "But, when my students and I saw him perform at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, I knew he would be a good fit for the whole St. Mark's school community. His deft writing shows his pleasure in language, and his ideas and images prove the profound and gentle kindness in his interactions with the world."
Gay is a founding editor of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin'. He is also an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press. An advocate for social justice, he is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project.
The C. Boyden Gray Colloquium Series is designed to engage St. Mark's students in an exploration of one complex global issue annually. Students hear from outside speakers with varying viewpoints, participate in small group discussions, write about and debate the issue, and take part in all-community events. C. Boyden Gray '60, former board president and current Trustee Emeritus, has committed $1.5 million to fund this annual yearlong learning exercise. St. Markers, Gray believes, "should think in big terms and be inquisitive about the outside world." Gray, a former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, White House counsel to the first President Bush, and recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, hopes that tackling these topics in an intensive fashion will inspire students to serve their country and the world.