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Jericho Brown USA

'The Tradition'

2020 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Jericho Brown is the most exciting poet in the USA today. On May 4th he was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his latest collection ‘The Tradition’ which Pulitzer described as

“A collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency in their loving evocation of the bodies vulnerable to hostility and violence”

Two previous collections had established him as a voice for the voiceless, oppressed by virtue of their colour or their sexuality. The murder of George Floyd three weeks later (to the day) gave Jericho’s work a bitter prescience that measured just how pressing that ‘historical urgency’ was.  As the BLM protest erupted across the world challenging centuries of historical complacency in the face of injustice, violence and oppression, as the facts of racism were reflected in the higher pandemic fatalities amongst people of colour, ethnic minorites, the poor and disadvantaged, The Tradition could be its manifesto. Poetry is enjoying heightened popularity but few poets riding the crest of its wave can compare to the talent and impact of Jericho Brown.

Before ’The Tradition’ was published last year Jericho Brown was already recognised as a poet of exceptional importance. Winner of a host of prestigious awards. Published in some of the USA’s finest including The New York Times, New Yorker and Time magazine. 

The Pulitzer placed him at the end of a list that runs from Robert Frost (sadly not without prejudice) to W H Auden and Allen Ginsberg.

Born and raised in Shreveport Louisiana part of ‘Bible Belt’ American, Trump country, Jericho Brown is a professor at Emory University in Atlanta and director of its Creative Writing Program. He was speechwriter for LaToya Cantrell the first black woman to hold the post of mayor of New Orleans. His first book, ‘Please’ (2008), won the American Book Award. ‘The New Testament’ (2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award which honours written works that make an important contribution to the understanding of racism and the appreciation of the rich diversity if human culture.

Earlier recipients include Allan Paton, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer and Zadie Smith, pretty impressive company.

In 2011, he received the Fellowship for Poetry awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts an American NGO under threat of defunding by POTUS Trump. In addition to his academic work, Jericho is assistant editor of ‘Callaloo’, a quarterly literary magazine of the African diaspora and the longest continuously running African-American literary magazine.

This impressive CV reflects the unique quality and power of Jericho Brown’s poetry. He follows in exalted footsteps in both the majesty of his poetry and the righteousness of its causes –Gwendolyn Brooks, Langstone Hughes, Audre Lorde, Robert Hayden, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and others walked that difficult path too.

‘The Tradition’ is published in the UK by Picador Poetry and is available from the usual sources for a mere £10.99. His earlier collections, ‘Please’ and ‘The New Testament’ are also available.

We urge you to purchase from small booksellers struggling under the impact of Covid-19 and to buy ‘The Tradition’ if it is the only book you buy this year.

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