poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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.

by this poet

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 teenage boys because they ask
For
poem

They said to say goodnight
And not goodbye, unplugged
The TV when it rained. They hid
Money in mattresses
So to sleep on decisions.
Some of their children
Were not their children. Some
Of their parents had no birthdates.
They could sweat a cold out
Of you. They'd wake

2
poem
This is what our dying looks like.
You believe in the sun. I believe
I can’t love you. Always be closing,
Said our favorite professor before
He let the gun go off in his mouth.
I turned 29 the way any man turns
In his sleep, unaware of the earth
Moving beneath him, its plates in
Their places, a dated