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About this poet

Jericho Brown grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and worked as a speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before earning his PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. He also holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans and graduated magna cum laude from Dillard University in 1998.

His first collection of poetry, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the 2009 American Book Award. The collection has received tremendous praise since its release; Ilya Kaminsky notes: "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."

Brown is the recipient of a 2009-2010 Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and a Whiting Writer's Award. He was a finalist for the 2009 Lambda Literary Award and Paterson Poetry Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has also received two travel fellowships to the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland.

He was a Teaching Fellow in the English Department at the University of Houston from 2002-2007 and a Visiting Professor at San Diego State University's MFA program in spring 2009. He has also taught at numerous conferences and workshops including the Iowa Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa. He currently teaches creative writing as an assistant professor of English at the University of San Diego.

Heart Condition

Jericho Brown
I don’t want to hurt a man, but I like to hear one beg.
Two people touch twice a month in ten hotels, and
We call it long distance. He holds down one coast.
I wander the other like any African American, Africa
With its condition and America with its condition
And black folk born in this nation content to carry
Half of each. I shoulder my share. My man flies
To touch me. Sky on our side. Sky above his world
I wish to write. Which is where I go wrong. Words
Are a sense of sound. I get smart. My mother shakes
Her head. My grandmother sighs: He ain’t got no
Sense. My grandmother is dead. She lives with me.
I hear my mother shake her head over the phone.
Somebody cut the cord. We have a long distance
Relationship. I lost half of her to a stroke. God gives
To each a body. God gives every body its pains.
When pain mounts in my body, I try thinking
Of my white forefathers who hurt their black bastards
Quite legally. I hate to say it, but one pain can ease
Another. Doctors rather I take pills. My man wants me
To see a doctor. What are you when you leave your man
Wanting? What am I now that I think so fondly
Of airplanes? What’s my name, whose is it, while we
Make love. My lover leaves me with words I wish
To write. Flies from one side of a nation to the outside
Of our world. I don’t want the world. I only want
African sense of American sound. Him. Touching.
This body. Aware of its pains. Greetings, Earthlings.
My name is Slow And Stumbling. I come from planet
Trouble. I am here to love you uncomfortable.

Copyright © 2011 by Jericho Brown. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Jericho Brown. Used with permission of the author.

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown

Raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Jericho Brown won the 2009 American Book Award for his debut collection Please

by this poet

poem
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
poem

They sat on the dresser like anything
I put in my pocket before leaving
The house.  I even saw a few tiny ones
Tilted against the window of my living
Room, little metal threats with splinters
For handles.  They leaned like those
Teenage boys at the corner who might
Not be
poem
“O Blood of the River of songs,
O songs of the River of Blood,”
       Let me lie down. Let my words

Lie sound in the mouths of men
Repeating invocations pure
       And perfect as a moan

That mounts in the mouth of Bessie Smith.
Blues for the angels kicked out
       Of heaven. Blues for the angels

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