Youngstown native wins literary award

Youngstown-born poet Ross Gay won the 2021 Jean Stein Book Award and its $75,000 cash prize.

Gay, who moved to the Philadelphia area at a young age, won the award for “Be Holding, A Poem,” which was published in 2020 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. It is described as a book-length poem and homage to basketball legend Julius Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers. It weaves in cultural and historical references, zooming in for a close look at Erving and back out to all of the forces that made the basketball legend possible.

Gay 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 be the keynote speaker for Lit Youngstown’s Fall Literary Festival. His reading is scheduled Oct. 8 at St. John Episcopal Church in Youngstown. The free event is sponsored by the Centofanti Foundation, WYSU and the church.

This year’s Jean Stein Award judges were Tommy Orange, Fred Moten and Vievee Francis. The award 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.”

He previously won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.


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