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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 with a BA from Dillard University in 1998.

Brown is the author of two books of poetry. The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, was described by Yusef Komunyakaa as a chronicle of "life and death, personal rituals and blasphemies, race and nation, the good and the bad" that illuminates "scenarios of self-interrogation and near redemption." 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 Whiting Writer's Award and has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University.

He was a teaching fellow in the English department at the University of Houston from 2002 to 2007, a visiting professor at San Diego State University's MFA program in spring 2009, and an assistant professor of English at the University of San Diego. He has also taught at numerous conferences and workshops, including the Iowa Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa. He is currently an associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.


Bibliography

The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
Please (New Issues, 2008)
 

Prayer of the Backhanded

Not the palm, not the pear tree
Switch, not the broomstick,
Nor the closet extension
Cord, not his braided belt, but God,
Bless the back of my daddy’s hand
Which, holding nothing tightly
Against me and not wrapped
In leather, eliminated the air
Between itself and my cheek.
Make full this dimpled cheek
Unworthy of its unfisted print
And forgive my forgetting
The love of a hand
Hungry for reflex, a hand that took
No thought of its target
Like hail from a blind sky,
Involuntary, fast, but brutal
In its bruising. Father, I bear the bridge
Of what might have been
A broken nose. I lift to you
What was a busted lip. Bless
The boy who believes
His best beatings lack
Intention, the mark of the beast.
Bring back to life the son
Who glories in the sin
Of immediacy, calling it love.
God, save the man whose arm
Like an angel’s invisible wing
May fly backward in fury
Whether or not his son stands near.
Help me hold in place my blazing jaw
As I think to say, excuse me.

Copyright © 2008 by Jericho Brown. From Please (New Issues Press, 2008). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2008 by Jericho Brown. From Please (New Issues Press, 2008). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown

Raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Jericho Brown won the 2009 American Book Award for his debut collection Please (New Issues, 2008). He is also the author of The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

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2
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To believe in God is to love
What none can see. Let a lover go,

Let him walk out with the good
Spoons or die

Without a signature, and so much
Remains for scrubbing, for a polish

Cleaner than devotion. Tonight,
God is one spot, and you,

You must be one

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