Review: The Tradition by Jericho Brown

Nobody in this nation feels safe, and I’m still a reason why.

The Tradition

Summary and Thoughts

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 terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplex―a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues―testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while revelling in a celebration of contradiction. 


What a wonderful collection of poems!! Brown’s work is piercing, imaginative, and accessible. While not every poem left an impact, the ones that did are now some of my all-time favorite poems (“Ganymeede,” “As a Human Being,” “The Tradition,” “The Trees,” “Trojan,” “The Rabbits,” “I Know What I Love”). Jericho’s lyrical observations on the intersections of race, sexuality, family, adolescence, when confronted with the extremes of both violence and love are powerful, solidifying this collection as one of the great published poetry works of 2019. Though the book may be short, it is to be savored, which I intend to do moreso in the future. Highly recommend picking this up during Black History Month.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

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