Jericho Brown

“Work”, suggests the artist’s Black interior—the interior of a man who, due to his complexion, was often mistaken for “white.”

 

Jericho Brown has been described as a poet of eros.  He is recognized for his daring uses of formal poetics.  His original poetic form,  “The Duplex” is a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues. 

 

Brown’s latest collection, The Tradition, is a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.  His first book, Please, won the American Book award.  His second title, The New Testament, was named one of the best poetry books of the year by Library Journal and received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.  He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Arts and The Guggenheim Foundation. 

 

Brown is an associate professor and director of the Creative Writing program at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia. 

 

Brown has received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book The Tradition

Jericho Brown reading his poems at the High Museum's Bearden exhibition on January 3, 2020 at The Art Section live event.

Work

--Romare Bearden

From the fields of the South

To the mills in the North

The men come in every color of black

And the women too

Some on their feet ready to hoe

Some flat on their backs

One lying facedown 

With the train we can trust 

In earshot but too far to catch

Very few of us seated

Each so different 

You can’t tell us apart 

The way the skin on my hands

Is not the skin on my face

My face won’t get a callus

My hands never had a whitehead

But it’s all my body 

My body of work is proof

Of color everywhere 

I mean 

I can show you 

Just how black everything is 

If you let me 

If you pay me 

If you give me time 

To cut

The way a life can be cut into

It’s roosters and whistles and sundowns 

And other signals to get up

And go to work 

Or to rest a little 

My family made a little money

And I was so light 

A few of the women called me 

Shine

I had an eye 

For where I wasn’t like the people 

I pulled and pasted together 

Where wasn’t I like the people I pasted

Back when Jim Crow touched the black side 

Of all the light in the world 

And don’t Jim Crow touch

The black side of all the light in the world 

I’m telling you

First time I came to Atlanta 

I couldn’t walk through one door

Of the High Museum

Wasn’t allowed 

But baby I’m old 

Enough to know

What New Negro means

Let a Negro show you

Let me do my thing

I want to go to work

I want to make me

Out of us

Turn on the sun

Get me some scissors

00:00 / 02:08
jericho book cover.jpg