“Erotic and grief-stricken, ministerial and playful, Brown offers his reader a journey unlike any other in contemporary poetry.” —Rain Taxi
“To read Jericho Brown’s poems is to encounter devastating genius.” —Claudia Rankine
“Brown’s poetry might be perceived as a speech act, an attempt to fight back against hate in its many guises.” —Glint Journal
Jericho Brown’s first collection of poetry, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the 2009 American Book Award, and has received tremendous praise since its release. Terrance Hayes notes, “Please is saturated with an artful passion that gives fire to Jericho Brown’s elegies and pathos to his odes. This is the poetry of bloodship: the meaning of family, of love, of sexuality; the resonances of pain and the possibilities of redemption. No wonder there are so many people naming and being named here. No wonder Jericho Brown and his divas and misfits, his tricksters and innocents call out and answer to ‘a please that sounds like music.’ Intimate, honest, immediate—I could never say all I love about this book….”
His second collection of poetry, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), was nominated for the NAACP award for poetry and won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The collection was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal and made The Believer’s top 5 Books of the Year. In an NPR review of this book, Craig Morgan Teicher said, “What’s most remarkable in these poems is that, while they never stop speaking through gritted teeth, never quite make the choice between hope and fear, they are always beautiful, full of a music that is a cross between the sinuous sentences of Carl Phillips, the forceful descriptions of Mark Doty, and hip rhythms of Terrance Hayes. They show Brown to be a part of a new guard of black and gay writers—Hilton Als in his extraordinary nonfiction book White Girls is another recent exemplar—unwilling in their writing to confine their identities. These poems offer an unlikely kind of hope: Brown’s ambivalence is evidence of a fragile belief in the possibility of change, of the will that makes change possible.”
Jericho Brown grew up in Louisiana and worked as a speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before earning his Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. He has published poems in The Nation, The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Hurston Wright Poetry Prize. He also holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans and graduated magna cum laude from Dillard University. Brown is an Associate Professor in English and Creative Writing at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Jericho left almost a week ago and I am still receiving emails from students and faculty about how he has changed their lives. They have fallen in love with poetry all over again. He was affable, intellectual, professional, and powerful. We are so honored to have been graced by his light and the beauty of his words.” —Dr. Kalenda Eaton, Arcadia University
Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry. His first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is an associate professor in English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta.
THE NEW TESTAMENT (Poetry, 2014)
“The New Testament chronicles life and death, personal rituals and blasphemies, race and nation, the good and the bad, as well as illuminating scenarios of self-interrogation and near redemption. The lyrical clarity in this poignant collection approaches ascension. And here the sacred and profane embrace … The New Testament is lit by signifying, an anthem of survival and jubilation.” — Yusef Komunyakaa
In the world of Jericho Brown’s second book, disease runs through the body, violence runs through the neighborhood, memories run through the mind, trauma runs through generations. Almost eerily quiet in even the bluntest of poems, Brown gives us the ache of a throat that has yet to say the hardest thing—and the truth is coming on fast. In The New Testament, Jericho Brown summons myth, fable, elegy, and fairy tale in a tender examination of race, masculinity, and sexuality. Intensely musical, Brown’s poetry is suffused with reverence—simultaneously transporting and transforming the reader. “As for praise and worship,” Brown says, “I prefer the latter.” The New Testament laments the erasure of culture and ethnicity, elegizes two brothers haunted by shame, yet extols survival in the face of brutality and disease. Brown seeks not to revise the Bible but to find the source of redemption. As Rae Armantrout puts it, “Jericho Brown is as outrageous as John Donne: he takes God for his lover, father, and murdered or murderous brother. He takes America, with its racism, homophobia, war, and reality television and throttles… no, swaddles it in the language of the Bible and the blues. You want to keep reading this book even when it hurts. Like that other new testament, it’s about what love can do.”
PLEASE (Poetry, 2008)
“His lyrics are memorable, muscular, majestic. His voice in these lines is alive—something that is quite rare in his generation of very bookish and very ironic poetics. Brown’s poems are living on the page, and they give the reader that much: a sense of having been alive fully, if only for a duration of 75 pages of this volume. Indeed, Jericho Brown’s first book is one of those rare things: a debut of a master poet.” —Ilya Kaminsky
Please explores the points in our lives at which love and violence intersect. Drunk on its own rhythms and full of imaginative and often frightening imagery, Please is the album playing in the background of the history and culture that surround African American/male identity and sexuality. Just as radio favorites like Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and Pink Floyd characterize loss, loneliness, addiction, and denial with their voices, these poems’ chorus of speakers transform moments of intimacy and humor into spontaneous music.
Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer.
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath.
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.
I spent what light Saturday sent sweating
And learned to cuss cutting grass for women
Kind enough to say they couldn’t tell
The damned difference between their mowed
Lawns and their vacuumed carpets just before
Handing over a five dollar bill rolled tighter
Than a joint and asking me in to change
A few light bulbs. I called those women old
Because they wouldn’t move out of a chair
Without my help or walk without a hand
At the base of their backs. I called them
Old, and they must have been; they’re all dead
Now, dead and in the earth I once tended.
The loneliest people have the earth to love
And not one friend their own age—only
Mothers to baby them and big sisters to boss
Them around, women they want to please
And pray for the chance to say please to.
I don’t do that kind of work anymore. My job
Is to look at the childhood I hated and say
I once had something to do with my hands.
—from The New Testament
ROMANS 12: 1
I will begin with the body,
In the year of our Lord,
Porous and wet, love-wracked
And willing: in my 23rd year,
A certain obsession overtook
My body, or I should say,
I let a man touch me until I bled,
Until my blood met his hunger
And so was changed, was given
A new name
As is the practice among my people
Who are several and whole, holy
And acceptable. On the whole
Hurt by me, they will not call me
Brother. Hear me coming,
And they cross their legs. As men
Are wont to hate women,
As women are taught to hate
Themselves, they hate a woman
They smell in me, every muscle
Of her body clenched
In fits beneath men
Heavy as heaven—my body,
Dear dying sacrifice, desirous
As I will be, black as I am.
I don’t remember how I hurt myself,
The pain mine
Long enough for me
To lose the wound that invented it
As none of us knows the beauty
Of our own eyes
Until a man tells us they are
Why God made brown. Then
That same man says he lives to touch
The smoothest parts, suggesting our
Surface area can be understood
By degrees of satin. Him I will
Follow until I am as rough outside
as I am within. I cannot locate the origin
Of slaughter, but I know
How my own feels, that I live with it
And sometimes use it
To get the living done,
Because I am what gladiators call
A man in love – love
Being any reminder we survived.
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