Black authors, Reviews

Review: The Tradition by Jericho Brown

Synopsis: 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.

Welcome back to Monika tries to understand poetry! This summer I read a few poetry books, with varying results. Sometimes I would really click with the poetry, and others I would just feel lost in the words. But either way, I enjoyed reading them because poetry is just beautiful. One poetry book that I read this summer and did really enjoy was The Tradition by Jericho Brown. On the back of the book it reads “The Tradition questions why and how we’ve become accustomed to terror… Brown interrupts complacency by locating each emergency in the garden of the body, where living things grow and wither – or survive” and if that isn’t one of the most interesting and beautiful descriptions of a book then I dare you to show me a better one!

Of course, I don’t think I fully understand each and every poem, but it’s poetry and I think there will always be an element of mystery to someone who isn’t the author of those poems. But for the most part I did really get it and I feel so connected to this collection. I will say that a lot of these poems deal with difficult subject matter, such as suicide, police brutality, and rape. However, Brown does an incredible job of focusing on these really difficult topics and still teasing apart different aspects of them, to understand and question why they have become so common in our everyday lives. Poems like Bullet Point and Ganymede cover topics such as police brutality and rape in a way that is piercing but didn’t make me hesitant to keep reading.

This is probably a ridiculous thing to say, but I also find it so impressive that Brown created his own poetry form, the duplex. Like he just did that!! Incredible! I think to me poetry is such a set art form in some ways – even free verse or slam poetry or spoken word which are so free form are still a specific form of poetry. And so for Brown to combine older forms of poetry and create an entirely new one is astounding to me. The way the duplex flows is so interesting, and the repetition of lines that slightly change makes me think about how even the tiniest variation in something can create all the difference. It’s so cool.

Overall I loved this collection. I’m really looking forward to reading more of Mr. Brown’s poetry. If you’d like to hear him read some of his poems I’ll link them below!
Have a great day ducks!
~ Mon

Jericho Brown poetry reading links:
The Tradition Reading
TEDx Talk
Lunch Poems

4 thoughts on “Review: The Tradition by Jericho Brown”

    1. Oh of course! And this is coming from someone who doesn’t write poetry but I think sometimes people can fall into the trap of thinking that obscure writing makes them sound more deep or impressive, when really that just makes it difficult read. And everyone’s at a different place when it comes to poetry so who knows what people will connect with and understand!


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