Jan. 4 – Jericho Brown – The Tradition: Poems [Advent Calendar]

The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2019
Advent / Christmas Calendar
January 4


The Tradition: Poems
Jericho Brown

Paperback: Copper Canyon Press, 2019
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One of the risks of the short lyric and, more dramatically, the collection of short lyrics, is the sense that a poem is underdeveloped, that it presents the premise for a poem and not entirely — not fully — a poem itself; it’s in their self-containment, though, that Brown’s poems find their power and dynamism. In contrast to the facile politics of so many poems in the internet age, The Tradition revels in complexity and self-incrimination:

I am sick of your sadness,
Jericho Brown, your blackness,
Your books.

For all their sharp turns and fractures, Brown’s poems don’t feel muscular; instead, their impulse is lush and sensitive, not martial. The “tradition” that Brown interrogates and transforms in this unforgettable poetry collection is the site of death and the site of survival:

I want to obliterate the flowered field,

To obliterate my need for the field
And raise a building above the grasses,

A building of prayer against the grasses.


WATCH an interview with the poet about this book…  



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