YOUNGSTOWN — Poet Ross Gay won the 2021 Jean Stein Award for his newest book, “Be Holding, A Poem.”
The PEN America award comes with a $75,000 prize and highlights “a book-length work of any genre for its originality, merit and impact which has broken new ground by reshaping the boundaries of its form and signaling strong potential for lasting influence.”
Gay, a Youngstown native, is a professor at Indiana University and returned to Youngstown two years ago as a guest of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts. He will speak at Lit Youngstown’s Fall Literary Festival on Oct. 8 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 323 Wick Ave. The event is free and open to the public.
“Be Holding, A Poem” is a book-length poem and homage to basketball legend Julius Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers. The poem weaves in cultural and historical references and takes a look at Erving and the forces that made the basketball legend possible.
“I think this book is so much not only this desire but this practice,” Gay said in an acceptance speech. “The practice being understanding that we are made of each other.”
Gay also won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.