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Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown worked as speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before receiving his Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. He also holds an M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans and a B.A. from Dillard University. The recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, and two travel fellowships to the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, Brown teaches at the University of San Diego where he is the Director of the Cropper Center for Creative Writing. His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, jubilat, Oxford American, A Public Space, and several other journals and anthologies. Please, his first book, won the 2009 American Book Award.

On the Web

"The Gulf" on Verse Daily


Natasha Trethewey Interviews Jericho Brown for Southern Spaces

Robert Lee Brewer interviews Jericho Brown for Poetic Asides

Small Press Spotlight: Jericho Brown - Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors





$14.00 paper | 69 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-930974-79-1
Publication Date: Oct 2008
Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | ShopWMU | UPNE

Winner of the American Book Award

Please explores the points in our lives at which love and violence intersect. Drunk on its own rhythms and full of imaginative and often frightening imagery, Please is the album playing in the background of the history and culture that surround African American/male identity and sexuality. Just as radio favorites like Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and Pink Floyd characterize loss, loneliness, addiction, and denial with their voices, these poems’ chorus of speakers transform moments of intimacy and humor into spontaneous music. In Please, Jericho Brown sings the influence soul culture has on American life with the accuracy of the blues.

"Everyone sings in this live-wire, passionate book, in which the poet ventriloquizes a cast of characters’ hurt into music: Janis Joplin, the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, Diana Ross, a field of crickets. What these songs hold in common is a commitment to examining how love lives beside the wound, how tenderness and harm are so close together, for these battered singers, that it’s often hard to tell them apart. Fresh, deeply felt, formally adventurous, Please is a stunning debut."
         —Mark Doty

"Please is saturated with an artful passion that gives fire to Jericho Brown’s elegies and pathos to his odes. This is the poetry of blood-ship: the meaning of family, of love, of sexuality; the resonances of pain and the possibilities of redemption. No wonder there are so many people naming and being named here. No wonder Jericho Brown and his divas and misfits, his tricksters and innocents call out and answer to ‘a please that sounds like music.’ Intimate, honest, immediate—I could never say all I love about this book . . .”
         —Terrance Hayes

"Jericho Brown’s debut collection Please resonates like aftershocks on a fault line. The poems here are hauntingly the consequence of lives lived. The silent terror in these poems is the future they seem to inform despite the attempts to integrate the incoherent with the coherent moments of lived experience. Please continually repositions its readers inside the violence of the interruption, the psychic break. To read these poems is to encounter the devastating genius of Jericho Brown: ‘If I had known the location of my own runaway / Breath, I too would have found a blues.'"
         —Claudia Rankine

"Erotic and grief-stricken, ministerial and playful, Brown offers his reader a journey unlike any other in contemporary poetry: a book in which moral and cultural relativism does not form the pillars of its foundation."
         —Virginia Konchan, Rain Taxi Review of Books

"Brown is particularly adept at exposing the duplicity inherent in both experience and language. In fact, the double-entendre of the collection’s title sets the stage for what’s to come since one might utter the word 'Please' in either a begging or a dismissive manner."
         —Wayne Johns,

"The poems in Jericho Brown's Please hit you right away and make you say, 'Wow,' make you pause, make you close the book to take a break to recuperate from the blow. Please is a strong book of poems — strong like a man's fist, strong like love, strong like music."
         —Melissa McEwen, Immunization Against Invisibility

"Just read this book. Seriously. Everybody should be reading Jericho Brown."
         —Weston Cutter,

"Brown is able to seamlessly place music icons into a constellation of his own family members and lovers: a mother who goes back to her abusive husband, a homeless gay teenager, a father who prefers to speak with the back of his hand. These voices are united by a menace that can never be fully exorcised, only recognized and sung about."
         —Saeed Jones, Barrelhouse

". . . what makes Please impressive is Brown’s ability to marry intimate revelation with subtle musicality, the voice direct, even simple, but always nuanced and startling. He riffs and sings with the best of them. And it’s a pleasure to just sit back and enjoy the show"
         —Bruce Snider, The Rumpus


Beneath Me

They were of a different hue.
They were all the same color.
The roaches at 51 Felton Street
Went to work when we snored.
They raced for black lines
At the flick of a switch.
They were an athletic sort.
Some of their youngest laughed
At my Chuck Taylor's,
And I just knew
I'd never make it to the Olympics.
Sleep and they’d creep
Into my ears come night.
They conspired with certain spiders
Regarding ladder and crane designs.
Anything to top the refrigerator,
For the loaf of white bread.
They did not fly
Because they chose not to.
They would not sing
Above a roach whisper.
The roaches on Felton ruled
The cabinets, the land
Of pots and plates and pans.
They were well-dressed and polite.
We sneezed. They said
Bless you. They coughed.
We slapped their shiny backs.
But I don't have to miss them
Coursing through the walls
I come from. All that crawls
Beneath me dies
When I try my walk away.
Every time I tell a lie, I smile
And imagine their coupling, oh
God, their loveless orgies.
Insects. Incest. 674 families
Below my family's beds.
The roaches at 51 Felton Street,
They hate my human face.
They know my last name.