We present our lost interview with poet and writer Jericho Brown. We talked to Jericho in January 2014, just before he released his second book New Testament.
Jericho Brown was born and raised in Shreveport. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, an MFA from the University of New Orleans, and a BA from Dillard University. Brown has worked as an educator at institutions such as the University of Houston, San Diego State University, and Emory University.
His poems have been published in New England Review, The New Republic, Oxford American, The New Yorker and a slew of many other publications. He released his first book of prose and poetry, Please, in 2008. His second book, The New Testament, was released in 2014. His 2019 collection of poems, The Tradition, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
In 2017, PrideIndex recognized his talents by awarding him our Artistic Expression – National Award. Like proud parents, we have followed his work ever since. Without further ado, here’s our back to the future conversation from 2014.
PrideIndex (PI): Jericho, thank you for agreeing to the interview. I reached out to you some time ago. And it took a while for us to get connected on Facebook. But you know, I guess the timing is there now to make this happen.
Jericho Brown (JB): Yeah, I’m the King of Yes. All I ever say is yes. My mom says if I had been a girl, I would have 27 kids. (Laughs)
PI: Well, you know, you accepted me in your Jericho’s Friends Facebook group. I was able to follow you there.
JB: I’m glad to be followed; somebody’s looking at me.
PI: Yeah, we’re looking at you, especially when you say you went to an HBCU, Dillard University. Dillard is my alma mater.
JB: I went to Dillard because it was one of the best black schools. I was an English major.
PI: Talk about some of your writings. What have you written? When was the first time you were published?
JB: My first book is called Release (2008). It’s a book about love, violence, and the places they intersect. It’s also a book where music takes its backdrop. I love old-school music. There are a lot of poems in the voice of people like Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Pink Floyd, and Janis Joplin that all show up in the book. I have a new book coming out in the fall called the New Testament. The way that the first book made music its backdrop, the second book will make the Bible as the backdrop. I’ve always been interested in how much this country and my family love the Bible. When I was growing up, it was essential. New Testament is a book mainly about brotherhood, about what it means for two people to be brothers.
PI: The New Testament, in most religions, is a set of books with the most contention. Were you intentionally looking to push the envelope with a bit of controversy?
JB: No. I was not trying to start controversy. I’m always writing what I’m thinking about at the time.
PI: If you were not a writer, poet, or artist, what would you be?
JB: If I weren’t an author, I would probably be interested in something like broadcast journalism. I would be able to meet and talk to people about different issues, which I am doing now.
PI: If Jericho Brown was not a person, it was a car. What kind of car would you be?
JB: I guess I would want to be some hybrid to be as fuel-efficient as possible so that I’m not destroying the earth. I don’t think I would need to be a high-speed car. I would need to be something that could be driven by a person who could enjoy the ride.
PI: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
JB: The advice I would give to aspiring writers is:
- Keep a notebook so you can jot things down.
- Write something every day, even if it’s only one line or sentence.
- Write something original, not just something you’ve heard.
- Reading is the most important thing to being a writer. If you want to be a writer, try to see if there’s something in the world that calls out to your experience, something in the world that calls what you’re trying to do in your work.
- Your “good ideas”from watching TV or going to plays will not teach you to write.
PI: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JB: When I’m not writing, I like to listen to music and go to concerts.