Jericho Brown became a poet because he had to. Silenced at home by abusive parents, and, in his words, too afraid of them to turn to drugs or crime, he sought refuge in his church, where he found something to believe in: art.
“(My) dream came from being in a place where it was required that you stand in front of people and be vulnerable,” said Brown, during a 2015 Tedx Talk. “It’s those sermons that led me to think about art in the way that I now think about art. A spoken thing is an artful thing. Poems mirror the process of prayer. Poems are mirrors of the life of the believer. So maybe I didn’t have (nurturing) parents, but I did have poetry.”
Brown’s first book of poetry, 2008’s “Please,” won the American Book Award. His third collection, “The Tradition” was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.
Brown’s poetry has appeared in publications across the country, including The New Yorker and “The Best American Poetry.” He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. He is an associate professor and director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta.
What began for Brown as a method of healing and expression became a lifelong labor of love. He has thousands of followers on social media and tours the country reading and discussing poetry.
“Poems, more than anything I can think of, keep us breathing. They remind us of our own breath. When we start at the first line and we end at the last line in this oral art that I cherish so much, we are reminded of our own vitality. We are reminded that we live and live whole.”
Brown’s reading Thursday will be followed by a Q&A and book signing as part of the Washington State University Visiting Writer Series.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Poet Jericho Brown.
WHEN: 6:30 to 7:30 Thursday, Feb. 27.
WHERE: Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, 405 SE Spokane St., Washington State University, Pullman.