Photographers Unknown, I Am What Gladiators Call a Man in Love
I don’t remember how I hurt myself,
The pain mine
Long enough for me
To lose the wound that invented it
As none of us knows the beauty
Of our own eyes
Until a man tells us they are
Why God made brown. Then
That same man says he lives to touch
The smoothest parts, suggesting our
Surface area can be understood
By degrees of satin. Him I will
Follow until I am as rough outside
As I am within. I cannot locate the origin
Of slaughter, but I know
How my own feels, that I live with it
And sometimes use it
To get the living done,
Because I am what gladiators call
A man in love—love
Being any reminder we survived.
Jericho Brown, Colosseum, The New Testament, 2014, Copper Canyon Press
Born in April of 1976 in the Louisiana city of Shreveport, Jericho Brown is an American poet, writer and educator. In 1995, he earned his Bachelor of Arts at the historical Dillard University where he was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Brown graduated with his Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Orleans and earned his Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Houston.
From 2002 to 2007, Jericho Brown was a teaching fellow in the University of Houston’s English department. He was a visiting professor for the MFA program at San Diego State University in the spring of 2009, as well as, an assistant English professor at the University of Sand Diego. Brown is currently an associate professor of English and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to his duties at Emory, he has taught at conferences and workshops, including the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival.
Brown’s first publication was the 2008 “Please”, a winner of the American Book Award. The poems and prose contained in this volume explore, through recollections of family, history and culture, the intersection of love and violence that surrounds the identity and sexuality of both the African American and male personae.
Jericho Brown’s second work was the 2014 collection of poems “The New Testament”. Lamenting the erasure of culture and ethnicity, he examined the issues of race, masculinity and sexuality by means of elegies, myths, and fairy tales. This collection won the American Book Award, the Whiting Award for Poetry, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. “The New Testament” also won the 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, a literary award to honor written works that make contributions to the understanding of racism and the rich diversity of human culture.
Brown published his third collection “The Tradition” through Copper Canyon Press in April of 2019. The work in this volume examines our modern traditions developed in a time when terror is the norm. Juxtaposed with themes of the natural world are poems that expose the numbness of society to issues of sexuality, racism, sexual assault, gun control, and police brutality. This third collection by Brown won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Paterson Poetry Prize, as well as, a place in the finals for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In October of 2020, Jericho Brown traveled to his hometown of Shreveport to accept the John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence from Centenary College’s Department of English. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s literary work has appeared in multiple publications including The New Republic, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Buzzfeed, Jubilat, and volumes of The Best American Poetry.
Notes: Jericho Brown’s website includes both poems and prose, interviews, and scheduled lectures and readings. The site is located at: https://www.jerichobrown.com
A reading by Jericho Brown of work from “The Tradition”, recorded in Spain just after he won the Pulitzer Prize, was originally aired on Poetry Spoken Here. It is now available again on SoundCloud located at: https://soundcloud.com/poetry-spoken-here/special-rebroadcast-pulitzer-prize-winner-jericho-brown-reading-at-the-unamuno-author-festival
Top Insert Image: Taylor Carpenter, “Jericho Brown”, 2016, Color Print, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bottom Insert Image: Audra Melton, “Jericho Brown”, 2020, Color Print, Arts & Culture Section, Garden & Gun