Be Holding by Ross Gay


I fell in love with Ross Gay when I heard him interviewed on OnBeing. I immediately ordered his book of essays, The Book of Delights, which I highly recommend. It is packed with joy! Gay is primarily known as a poet. I heard him interviewed again recently. He published a book-long poem titled Be Holding. It circles around the miraculous basketball shot by Dr. J (Julius Erving) that won Dr. J’s team a championship game. Watching the shot is a must before reading the poem: I don’t know much about basketball, but I was amazed! The poem is magnificent. I didn’t know until right after I finished the poem that it is National Poetry Month. This poem is definitely worthy of celebration!

9 comments on “Be Holding by Ross Gay”

  1. I know that shot! Dr J was a miracle in motion. I am thrilled there is a book length poem that circles around this. Definitely will be checking it out.

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    1. I was surprised how moved I was the first time I watched the shot. I still feel emotion well up inside me when I rewatch the play. Gay’s poem left me soaring even though Dr. J, in that magical moment, had to end his amazing flight: “he falls, painlessly and temporarily, crawling for a few seconds before getting to his feet…”

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  2. Barbara, I heard Ross Gay talk about Be Holding on the Between the Covers podcast. It’s quite a feat just to write a poem of such length that will find a wide audience but, beyond that, a poem about a moment in sports that will appeal to the non-sports fan. That is called mastery.

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  3. I have read and reread this remarkable poem and I am left, for the second time, at a loss as to how to describe, how to encompass all the ways in which it moved me, all the sensations and images that flowed through me as I read it. It is a stunning work, circling, as you have said Barbara, around this miraculous move by Julius Erving on the basketball court. But what a circle! Yes it is about basketball and the sheer impossibility of that move. But, it is also about seeing and being seen, about love, about the histories we carry inside us. It is about racism and race, about possibility and forgiveness, about seeing, really seeing each other. The poem is both propulsive and suspended – much like Dr J’s move – and the language is deceptively complex. It seems simple and spare but a closer inspection reveals exquisite word play. It really is a remarkable work. Thank you so much, Barbara, for bringing it to my attention. ❤

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  4. Oh, and I forgot to add, on the back of the book is a lovely photograph of Ross Gay wearing a t-shirt that says “POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY” (Audre Lorde)

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