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April 28, 2019

#National Poetry Month April Jericho Brown

by N@ncy

  • Author: Jericho Brown
  • Title: The New Testament
  • Published: 2014
  • Genre: poetry
  • Table of contents: 41 poems
  • Trivia: 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
  • Trivia: Brown holds a
  • Ph.D. University of Houston
    M.F.A. University of New Orleans
    B.A. Dillard University.
  • He is an associate professor and
  • the director of the Creative Writing Program
  • …at Emory University.
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #PoetryMonth



  1. Extended version of Jericho Brown…
  2. …an American gay black man attacked by society and dying of disease.
  3. The author became very ill with HIV in 2010.



  1. Moving on to a new poet after spending
  2. days with The Facts by Therese Lloyd
  3. …in New Zealand is not easy.
  4. But ‘reading life’ goes on.
  5. Jericho Brown…some say he is the new James Baldwin.
  6. His commentary on race is deeply vivid. (see poem: The Interrogation)
  7. His poetry explores trauma, race, class, sexuality, spirituality.


  1. I’m reading Jericho Brown
  2. because he supplies the shock and awe
  3. that only poetry can express.
  4. I was NEVER taught poetry in school.
  5. Everything was about Shakespeare’s plays or
  6. classic like N. Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or
  7. R.L. Stevenson’s The Deerslayer.
  8. Now that I have finally immersed myself in this genre.


  1. I loved Brown’s explanation how he got to love poetry:
  2. ” My mother would drop me off at the library because
  3. …she could not afford childcare…the best thing that happened to me!”


Last thoughts

  1. The downside:
  2. …I can only read 5-6 poems a day.
  3. It is just too much to absorb.
  4. I tried to read a poem without any foreknowledge
  5. …but realized some allusions went way over my head.
  6. So I have to study the poem…before I read it.
  7. It attests to the depth and intensity of the poems.
  8. The upside:
  9. I enjoy the isolation of reading a small
  10. piece of prose
  11. …not in the mood for novels at the moment.
  12. There is so much to discover in
  13. just 20-60 lines and ….a few stanzas.
  14. I am amazed by Brown’s command of language
  15. and his ability to combine his personal grief
  16. …with social injustice.


My notes on a few poems:

  1. According to Brown…
  2. “Poetry wakes us up!”
  3. Poetry It is not difficult.
  4. It asks something of us
  5. …that reality TV does not ask of us.”



  1. I completely missed the importance to the
  2. word gladiator in this poem.
  3. A man who stands bravely
  4. and fights the inevitable slaughter.
  5. Best quote:
  6. “I know how my own (slaughter) feels
  7. …that I live with it, and sometimes uses it
  8. …to get the living done.”
  9. Jericho Brown stands bravely in his poems
  10. …knowing all too well what is at stake.


Romans 12:1

  1. Bible text:
  2. “…to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice
  3. … your true and proper worship”
  4. I thought I understood the poem
  5. Reading the bible text gives me the
  6. insight that Brown is alluding to
  7. …offering his body to another man.
  8. But in the lines we discover the American
  9. society’s aversion to feminity in the male.
  10. “…my people {…} will not call me brother”
  11. In a podcast I heard
  12. Jericho Brown reveal the  difficulty of separating
  13. a poet’s autobiography from his work.
  14. Writing confessional poetry is difficult when
  15. a person is so private…as Brown is.
  16. But who does it hurt more me or you to
  17. write these poems?
  18. Jericho Brown rarely speaks to his
  19. evangelical fundamentalist Christian parents.
  20. After his coming out as a gay man…his parents
  21. did not embrace him.
  22. Jericho Brown lets you hear what it is
  23. …like to live in his world.



  1. The local doctor has a biblical echo
  2. “…the boy can only hope for miracles.”
  3. In “Heartland,” one of the book’s opening poems, Brown writes,
  4. “I do anything other than the human thing,”
  5. Central idea of the book:
  6. The narrator is one who doesn’t completely fit in
  7. …is made to feel less than human.



  1. Description of narrator’s Saturday odd-job cutting lawns for old ladies
  2. Nice sentence: “….they (mothers and big sisters)
  3. …want to please and pray for the chance to say please to.”
  4. — five-dollar bill rolled tighter than a joint! (funny)
  5. — tell the difference between mowed lawns and vacuumed carpets
  6. — “The loneliest people have earth to love…and not one friend their own age.”


The Interrogation – divided into seven parts.

II. Cross-Examination” and  IV. Redirect

  1. Brown narrates an imagined conversation
  2. between himself and an interrogator.
  3. The narrator defends his heritage:
  4. (Best quote)  
  5. “What you call a color I call
  6. …A way.”
  7. The interrogator responds:
  8. “Forgive us. We don’t mean to laugh
  9. It’s just that black is,
  10. After all, the absence of color.”

VI. Multiple Choice 

  1. Haunting:
  2. “Show me A man who tells his children
  3. The police will protect them
  4. And I’ll show you the son of a man
  5. Who taught his children where
  6. To dig.”
  7. The exchanges between these two voices are haunting and memorable.
  8. The poem  reminds the reader of Ferguson…
  9. The Ferguson Unrest (Aug 2014) protests and riots that began the day
  10. …after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police.
  11. The unrest sparked a vigorous debate about
  12. …relationship police officers and African Americans.



  1. The narrator talks to his abusive father.
  2. The last sentence knocked the wind out of my sails.


To Be Seen

  1. Narrator: (Jericho Brown was diagnosed 2010 with HIV)
  2. recalls his doctor speaking in metaphors of war…
  3. ”Its always the virus that attacks the cells..”
  4. “Hell, I remember his saying the word SIEGE when a rash returned.”



  1. Jericho Brown moved back to the south
  2. …after living many years in California.
  3. He had forgotten some missing terms he once knew.
  4. One of these terms is ’N’em.
  5. Meaning:
  6. that person and everyone who might associate with that person.
  7. Use in a sentence:
  8. “Hey, how you been…how’s your mama and ’N’em.
  9. This poem is absolutely stunning in its simplicity.
  10. It packs an emotional punch without cliché
  11. …especially in the last 2 line.


Langston’s Blues

  1. Persona poem in which Brown uses the voice of Langston Hughes.
  2. It alludes to the poem Hughes
  3. wrote when he was 18yr  The Negro Speaks of Rivers.


Read more from poetry

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