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The Tradition

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  3,532 ratings  ·  525 reviews
Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the ...more
Paperback, 77 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  3,532 ratings  ·  525 reviews

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Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is a remarkable line or revelation on each poem. What can’t he do?
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Tradition has just been awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for poetry!

I begin with love, hoping to end there,’ writes Jericho Brown in his third, and extraordinary new collection The Tradition, ‘I don’t want to leave a messy corpse.’ The task of a poet is often to take in the world and transform the truths into art, a harrowing task when there seems to be a shadow of violence devouring the horizon. Jericho Brown, who is arguably one of the most important voices in poetry today, takes an implor
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, poetry, recs
A striking poetry collection considering Blackness, queerness, history, and intimacy. The first half’s more political and focused on collective experience, whereas the second delves into the poet’s private life, exploring in turn the erotic and the daily. Brown’s phrasing is entrancing, and many of the poems gathered here are great.
Whitney Atkinson
It's getting more dificult for me to read poetry because I find a lot of it lingers in very "middle of the road" territory, which is how I felt this one was. Jericho's writing is certainly pretty and I highlighted a lot of impactful lines, but I also found myself skimming some poems that I couldn't quite comprehend, and there wasn't a poem in this collection that I loved start to finish, even though great messages and introspection are sprinkled throughout. I don't think this book is quite my ta ...more
Read By RodKelly
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Tradition is a stunning and poignant collection of poems that examine the ache, the grief, the sexuality, the music, and the language of the black body. Be it man, woman, lover, or tormentor, these roles are exposed and explored with a sharp and slightly sardonic eye. These poems challenge our collective amnesia and complacency with the horrors unleashed upon our communities and our very own bodies; the ways in which we fight for autonomy and freedom, the ways in which we lie to ourselves to ...more
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
National Book Award for Poetry Longlist 2019. Brown’s poetry has twists that make us think. They start off in one direction and within a few short phrases move to more weighty issues—how the body is vulnerable to infection (HIV), physical abuse, racism, and more. Recommend these lyrical compact poems.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2019, poetry
I first encountered Jericho Brown on a recent episode of On Being, where he discussed his work, his life as a gay, black, HIV-positive man, and how he dealt with honesty in his own work (specifically around the subject of rape... he talks about how he wrote around it until he just couldn't write until he dealt with it more directly.)

It's hard to claim "favorites" in this collection because what Jericho Brown does is speak truths, but they are painful and eviscerating at times. What more could we
K. Elizabeth
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Please read this.
chantel nouseforaname
OMG. I don't even know where to begin with this.

Jericho Brown touched me on levels with The Tradition. I swear I was reading this on the bus and subway and just felt my eyes filling with water. This is some of the heaviest poetry I've read since I read Felon last month by Reginald Dwayne Betts.

I can't even get into how good this effort is, I'm shaking. Bullet Points is a HUGE highlight of the poetry offered up here. Every time the words, "I promise you" came up - I felt this movement in my che
Krista Regester
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will not shoot myself
In the head, and I will not shoot myself
In the back, and I will not hang myself
With a trashbag, and if I do,
I promise you, I will not do it
In a police car while handcuffed
Or in the jail cell of a town
I only know the name of
Because I have to drive through it
To get home. Yes, I may be at risk,
But I promise you, I trust the maggots
Who live beneath the floorboards
Of my house to do what they must
To any carcass more than I trust
An officer of the law of the land
To shut my eyes
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Many of the poems in the first half of this book focus on the political. Most in the second dwell on the personal. You might like one or the other or both.

For a sample poem, along with one from a book I read at the same time, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, you can go down this rabbit hole..
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Poems that examine the personal and the political and how they impact upon each other (particularly the political upon the individual). Often filled with strongly negative judgments on the self, the poems combine poems of fatherhood, trauma, being gay and all its personal complications (as well as the complications of being human and looking for safety and love).

Brown uses an interesting combination of forms, including sonnets and the ghazal, a form I especially admire and enjoy).

These poems ar
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A varied collection about race and sexuality. Wonderful language and structure.
Jul 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetshere
I promise if you hear Of me dead anywhere near A cop, then that cop killed me.

This collection didn't make me wanna holler, as it were. I just didn't connect with it. Various phrases looped about and fluttered upon contemplation but nothing further, nothing ripened, not even the two peaches noted to be dropped into the shopping basket. There appeared to be excessive badges on display and I understand the cost of such. I probably have a mental idea of what those badges involve, though I personally
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
I liked these poems, but I found that they didn't stay with me, burrowing under the skin, like my favourite collections do. Nonetheless, there were many that I did love, and the exploration of Brown's identity throughout was compelling.
Never Without a Book
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A Stunning collection!
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book will turn you inside out.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
3.5 stars

I’m definitely one of the very few who feel this way, but the style many of these poems just wasn’t for me.

You could viscerally feel how personal and meaningful these poems were to the author, which I appreciate, respect and admire. But the rhythm, cadence and flow of many of them weren’t quite there for me personally.

I do truly believe this is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Jericho Brown is obviously an immensely talented poet, as portrayed by the clever wordplay and poetic explora
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, poetry-plays
I'm sure
Somebody died while
We made love. Some-
Body killed somebody
Black. I thought then
Of holding you
As a political act.

Poetry is such a mercurial art form, and the connection with the reader so tenuous.
Review to follow.
Michael Livingston
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, angry, timely - accessible enough for poetry noobs like me, but full of formal invention and smarts.
Ecem Yücel
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful poems that touch the hearts of their readers. No wonder Jericho Brown got this year's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.
Kamila Kunda
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, poetry, usa
“The Tradition” is the third collection of poems by Jericho Brown, an American, Louisiana-born, prize-winning poet. For me it was the first experience with his deeply personal, intimate verses. They are rooted in American culture and history, in which black bodies are abused and hated even by their owners. Brown writes about the struggle to accept himself, as a black person, as a man, as a gay and about the dissonance between how he sees himself, how he thinks he should feel about himself and ho ...more
Brenna Gomez
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jericho Brown’s The Tradition is a poetry collection that will not turn away from the difficult thought, feeling, or deed. The book knocked me all the way down from the very first page. It begins with the stunning, “Ganymede”—a poem that rewrites a painful history: “When we look at myth / This way, nobody bothers saying / Rape. I mean, don’t you want God / To want you?” If we pretend we chose the terrible things that happen to us, then they can’t possibly be that bad. But it doesn’t mean we don’ ...more
i don't have the range to judge, rate or critique poetry. my level of understanding of this art form is minimal at best. with that said, i've taken the time to slowly introduce myself to it because i love prose - the evocation though language and words which is why folks love poetry so much.

The Tradition by Jericho Brown was beautifully layered, addressing traditions in love, sexuality, gender, and racism. Brown well deserves the award for this powerful book.
Lesa Divine
Nov 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Very selective of poems I liked and could relate to.
Part 1 I found a lot that can be related to.
Part 2 just a few that was ah ah moment.
Part 3 only the hair poem was much more interesting.

Like with Ocean Vuong, give me poetry that has something of substance to say. From “Of My Fury”:

I love a man I know could die
And not by way of illness
And not by his own hand
But because of the color of that hand and all
His flawless skin.
Momo Bradham
Straight fire. Read the book; going to check out the audiobook on Scribd next. Starting The New Testament tomorrow. Here're the lines that caught me:

No matter how sore the injury
Has left you, you sit understanding
Yourself as a human being finally
Free now that nobody’s got to love you.


Yellow bird.
Yellow house.
Little yellow

Light in my
Jaundiced mouth.
These yellow
Teeth need

Brushing, but
You admire
My yellow


Stealing looks at one another’s bodies
To press a left or right
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: brace2020_4
I think it is safe for me to assume that I don't really get contemporary poetry. What I read wasn't bad, but it also wasn't good. It was rather indifferent. What I managed to get out of this poems, was a vague sence of pain and misery
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
“ sit understanding
yourself as a human being finally
free now that nobody’s got to love you.”

this collection is sublime. it’s breathtaking and shattering all in the same breath. brown’s way with words is otherworldly, akin to scripture. no poem felt out of place in this body of work. every line is a dedication to the life he’s lived as a gay black man in this country. the violence that’s been done, but also that love that peeks quietly in-between those harsher moments. each line carries you
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Play Book Tag: The Tradition by Jericho Brown / 5 stars 3 17 May 29, 2019 04:46PM  

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Jericho Brown worked as the speechwriter for the Mayor of New Orleans before receiving his PhD in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston. He also holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans and a BA 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 ...more

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“I’m sure Somebody died while We made love. Some- Body killed somebody Black. I thought then Of holding you As a political act.” 5 likes
“Nobody in this nation feels safe, and I'm still a reason why.” 4 likes
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