Editor’s Note

Joy, Wonder, and Other Seeds to Share

Avid readers of this magazine may recall that a little over two years ago, in our September/October 2020 issue, Ross Gay spoke with fellow poet and author Aimee Nezhukumatathil in a wide-ranging conversation titled “World of Wonders” on the occasion of the Milkweed Editions release of her essay collection, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. When Gay asked her where wonder comes from, referencing the feeling of, and the impetus for, Nezhukumatathil’s book, she replied: “Wonder for me is when you get surprised by your own curiosity when confronted with something unfamiliar or unexpected and that sense of curiosity turns into a kind of joy and excitement.” At the time, which in hindsight appears awfully early in whatever era or age historians will eventually call this, I remember her words feeling like a ray of light in the deep, dark Otherwise. So you can understand why, when she proposed switching the tables and interviewing Gay for the October release of his essay collection Inciting Joy (Algonquin Books), I jumped at the opportunity to hear more from these two about curiosity and creativity and collaboration and, yes, sorrow but also joy. Especially joy. More of that. “I think joy is what emanates from us when we reach for each other or hold each other through...sorrow,” Gay tells his correspondent and collaborator in “Seeds to Share” (page 30). “I suspect that joy, that holding, that light (or fire) incites many things, including, most beautifully, more of itself.”

Madhushree Ghosh, the author of Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family and one of the debut authors featured in our seventh annual 5 Over 50 (49), kindles some of that feeling of joy as she describes her winding path to publication and rejects the notion that a writer’s age is any kind of useful indicator. “The twenty-five-year-old me would have written a different Khabaar than what a fifty-one-year-old me wrote,” she says. “Sometimes a circuitous writing journey happens, and sometimes a standard MFA route is followed. And look, what joy! We create worlds, how lucky are we! Why complicate it with lists, ‘expiry’ dates, and the pressure to look a certain way? Fill yourself with joy that you get to write magic.”

Toward the end of “Seeds to Share,” Nezhukumatathil asks Gay what he loves these days. It’s a deceptively simple question, but it’s also instructive. What do you love? Share it with the world. I’ll start: I love writers who remind me what’s important.