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Photo by Angel Nafis.


Jericho Brown


Atlanta, Georgia

Jericho Brown grew up in Shreveport, LA. On both sides of Brown's family, he’s the grandson of sharecroppers who fled rural parts of the South in fear of white terror. He grew up landscaping for his father’s “yard business” and spent the winter months at the Morningside Branch public library where he fell in love with poetry. He now believes the work he did in the heat prepared him for the work he'd have to do as a reader, understanding labor as a property of beauty.

He attended the HBCU Dillard University for his BA in English before becoming the speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans. He wanted to be surprised by what he wrote, so he turned to poetry, getting an MFA from the University of New Orleans. In order to fully immerse himself, he left New Orleans for the University of Houston where got a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing and finished his first book, Please, which went on to win the American Book Award. Today, he is an associate professor at Emory University, the recipient of a Whiting Award, and of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

His second book, The New Testament, won the Anisfield-Wolf Award. His third collection is The Tradition (Copper Canyon, 2019). Brown's poems have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, TIME Magazine, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry anthologies.

Donor -This award was generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This artist page was last updated on: 07.08.2024

[ Excerpt ]

I will not shoot myself

In the head, and I will not shoot myself

In the back, and I will not hang myself

With a trashbag, and if I do,

I promise you, I will not do it

In a police car while handcuffed

Or in the jail cell of a town

I only know the name of

Because I have to drive through it

To get home.  Yes, I may be at risk,

But I promise you, I trust the maggots

Who live beneath the floorboards

Of my house to do what they must

To any carcass more than I trust

An officer of the law of the land

To shut my eyes like a man

Of God might, or to cover me with a sheet

So clean my mother could have used it

To tuck me in.  When I kill me, I will

Do it the same way most Americans do,

I promise you:  cigarette smoke

Or a piece of meat on which I choke

Or so broke I freeze

In one of these winters we keep

Calling worst.  I promise if you hear

Of me dead anywhere near

A cop, then that cop killed me.  He took

Me from us and left my body, which is,

No matter what we’ve been taught,

Greater than the settlement a city can pay

A mother to stop crying, and more

Beautiful than the new bullet

Fished from the folds of my brain.

Bullet Points, 2019.