"By some literary magicno, it's precision, and honestyBrown manages to bestow upon even the most public of subjects the most intimate and personal stakes."Craig Morgan Teicher, “I Reject Walls: NPR 2019 Poetry Preview”
“A relentless dismantling of identity, a difficult jewel of a poem.“Rita Dove, in her introduction to Jericho Brown’s “Dark” (featured in the New York Times Magazine in January 2019)
“Winner of a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Brown's hard-won lyricism finds fire (and idyll) in the intersection of politics and love for queer Black men.” O, The Oprah Magazine
Featured in NPR’s “I Reject Walls”: A 2019 Poetry Preview”
Named a Lit Hub “Most Anticipated Book of 2019”
One of Buzzfeed’s “66 Books Coming in 2019 You’ll Want to Keep Your Eyes On”
The Rumpus poetry pick for “What to Read When 2019 is Just Around the Corner”
One of Book Riot’s “50 Must-Read Poetry Collections of 2019”
Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplexa combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the bluesis testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while reveling in a celebration of contradiction.
|Publisher:||Copper Canyon Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Jericho Brown worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before earning his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. 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. His first book, PLEASE (New Issues), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament, won won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets; the collection was also nominated for the NAACP award for poetry and made The Believer’s top 5 Books of the Year. Brown is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
Heavy and expensive, hard and black
With bits of chrome for points of pride, they looked
Like baby cannons, the real children of war, and I
Hated them for that, for what our teacher said
They could do, and then I hated them
For what they did when we gave up
On stealing looks at each other’s bodies
To press a left or right eye into the barrel and see
Our actual selves taken down to a cell
Then blown back up again, every atomic thing
About a piece of my coiled hair on one slide
Just as unimportant as anyone else’s
Growing in that science
Class where I learned what little difference
God saw if God saw me. It was the start of one fear,
A puny one not much worth mentioning,
Narrow like a pencil tucked behind the ear,
But, by certain grace, lost when I reached for it
To stab someone I secretly loved.
A bigger boy who’d advance
Through those tight, locker-lined corridors shoving some
Excuse me, more an insult than a battle. No large loss.
Not at all. Nothing necessary to study
Or recall. No fighting in the hall
On the way to an American history exam
I almost passed. Redcoats.
Red blood cells. Red-bricked
Education I rode the bus to get. I can’t remember
The exact date or
Grade, but I know when I began ignoring slight alarms
That move others to charge or retreat. I’m a kind
Of camouflage. I never let on when I’m scared
Of conflicts so old they seem to amount
To nothingdust particles left behind really
Like the viral geography of an expanding country
Or like the most recent name of an occupied territory
I imagine you imagine when you see
A white woman walking with a speck like me.
We do not recognize the body
Of Emmett Till. We do not know
The boy's name nor the sound
Of his mother wailing. We have
Never heard a mother wailing.
We do not know the history
Of this nation in ourselves. We
Do not know the history of our-
Selves on this planet because
We do not have to know what
We believe we own. We believe
We own your bodies but have no
Use for your tears. We destroy
The body that refuses use. We use
Maps we did not draw. We see
A sea so cross it. We see a moon,
So land there. We love land so
Long as we can take it. Shhh. We
Can’t take that sound. What is
A mother wailing? We do not
Recognize music until we can
Sell it. We sell what cannot be
Bought. We buy silence. Let us
Help you. How much does it cost
To hold your breath underwater?
Wait. Wait. What are we? What?
What on Earth are we? What?
I am sick of your sadness,
Jericho Brown, your blackness,
Your books. Sick of you
Laying me down
All so I forget how sick
I am. I'm sick of your good looks,
Your debates, your concern, your
Determination to keep your butt
Plump, the little money you earn.
I'm sick of you saying no when yes is easy
As a young man, bored with you
Saying yes to every request
Though you're as tired as anyone else yet
Consumed with a single
Diagnosis of health. I'm sick
Of your hurting. I see that
You’re blue. You may be ugly,
But that ain’t new.
Everyone you know is
Just as cracked. Everyone you love is
As dark, or at least as black.