Arts

Atlanta Poet Jericho Brown Questions Status Quo With Words

Jericho Brown attends the 46th NAACP Image Awards Nominees’ Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Jan 17, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Rob Latour/Invision/AP)
Jericho Brown attends the 46th NAACP Image Awards Nominees’ Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Jan 17, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Rob Latour/Invision/AP)
Credit Rob Latour / Invision/Associated Press

Poet and writing professor Jericho Brown says that if you see a poet this month, give them a hug, because they’re busy. He’s referring, of course, to National Poetry Month. Brown was just on a whirlwind of readings and classes in New York last week and is heading back out on the road soon.

But he took some time from his busy schedule to stop and talk about what he’s working on and about recently being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

“There’s a certain kind of uncertainty to poetry, and I feel really attracted to that,” Brown says. “[Poetry] is the conversation that the self has with the self. It’s a way one can talk to himself without being crazy. It’s very similar to what we think of as prayer. It has a lot to do with meditating on what your ideas are and finding the exact and perfect language for those ideas.”

The fellowship will allow Brown to complete his next collection of poetry, titled “Character,” which he says deals with the ideas of celebrity and media.

“The movies we really love — part of the reason we love them is because we feel different after we have seen them,” Brown explains. “We feel ourselves changing as we are watching them. We start having ideas that we didn’t have before. They give us things to talk about years after we have seen the movie. Poems do that too. Part of what I really want to do with poetry is bring things to a place where people read my poems and start asking questions about the status quo.”

Some of the work in the collection deals with issues of police brutality and issues affecting people of color. Brown shared his poem “Bullet Points,” which recently went viral after it was published by Buzzfeed in late March.

Jericho Brown’s previous book, “The New Testament,” was named one of the best poetry books of 2014 by Library Journal.