Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

The Tradition

The Tradition

The Tradition

4.5/5 (113 ratings)
91 pages
41 minutes
Jun 18, 2019

Editor's Note

Pulitzer Prize winner…

Jericho Brown’s “The Tradition” won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. It’s “a collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency in their loving evocation of bodies vulnerable to hostility and violence,” according to the Pulitzer Prize judges.



Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award

"100 Notable Books of the Year," The New York Times Book Review

"By some literary magic—no, it's precision, and honesty—Brown manages to bestow upon even the most public of subjects the most intimate and personal stakes."—Craig Morgan Teicher, “'I Reject Walls': A 2019 Poetry Preview” for NPR

 “A relentless dismantling of identity, a difficult jewel of a poem.“—Rita Dove, in her introduction to Jericho Brown’s “Dark” (featured in the New York Times Magazine in January 2019)

“Winner of a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Brown's hard-won lyricism finds fire (and idyll) in the intersection of politics and love for queer Black men.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

Named a Lit Hub “Most Anticipated Book of 2019”

One of Buzzfeed’s “66 Books Coming in 2019 You’ll Want to Keep Your Eyes On”

The Rumpus poetry pick for “What to Read When 2019 is Just Around the Corner”

One of BookRiot’s “50 Must-Read Poetry Collections of 2019”

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—is testament to his formal skill. The Tradition is a cutting and necessary collection, relentless in its quest for survival while reveling in a celebration of contradiction.

Jun 18, 2019

About the author

Jericho Brown, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, worked as the speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans before earning his PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston. His first book, Please, won the American Book Award. The New Testament was winner of the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry and the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence, 2015. He teaches at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related categories

Book Preview

The Tradition - Jericho Brown



A man trades his son for horses.

That’s the version I prefer. I like

The safety of it, no one at fault,

Everyone rewarded. God gets

The boy. The boy becomes

Immortal. His father rides until

Grief sounds as good as the gallop

Of an animal born to carry those

Who patrol our inherited

Kingdom. When we look at myth

This way, nobody bothers saying

Rape. I mean, don’t you want God

To want you? Don’t you dream

Of someone with wings taking you

Up? And when the master comes

For our children, he smells

Like the men who own stables

In Heaven, that far terrain

Between Promise and Apology.

No one has to convince us.

The people of my country believe

We can’t be hurt if we can be bought.

As a Human Being

There is the happiness you have

And the happiness you deserve.

They sit apart from each other

The way you and your mother

Sat on opposite ends of the sofa

After an ambulance came to take

Your father away. Some good

Doctor will stitch him up, and

Soon an aunt will arrive to drive

Your mother to the hospital

Where she will settle next to him

Forever, as promised. She holds

The arm of her seat as if she could

Fall, as if it is the only sturdy thing,

And it is, since you’ve done what

You always wanted, you fought

Your father and won, marred him.

He’ll have a scar he can see all

Because of you. And your mother,

The only woman you ever cried for,

Must tend to it as a bride tends

To her vows, forsaking all others

No matter how sore the injury.

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

Smile. This

Black boy

Keeps singing.

Tiny life.

Yellow bile.

The Microscopes

Heavy and expensive, hard and black

With bits of chrome, they looked

Like baby cannons, the real children of war, and I

Hated them for that, for what our teacher said

They could do, and then I hated them

For what they did when we gave up

Stealing looks at one another’s bodies

To press a left or right eye into the barrel and see

Our actual selves taken down to a cell

Then blown back up again, every atomic thing

About a piece of my coiled

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1


What people think about The Tradition

113 ratings / 6 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    I just kept reading and reading. His best work in a career full of great work.
  • (5/5)
    Beautifully written, haunting and honest in the best of ways.
  • (5/5)
    Good of describe and sarcastic at the racist, and the tradition itself
  • (5/5)
    A m a z i n g! That’s why this one won the Pulitzer-Prize for Poetry.
  • (5/5)
    This was a beautiful book of poetry, one of the best I have read this year !
  • (3/5)
    In this collection of poetry Brown focuses on his identity and experiences as a gay black American son and man. And though I can recognize some or all of these themes in most-to-all of the poems, most of them are more literary than I can understand or appreciate. He uses form and structure to emphasize his meanings in ways I can't interpret, other than to know I am missing the point.That's not to say there aren't some poems here that I liked. The ones that stood out for me:The TraditionForeday in the MorningTokenDuplex: Cento (the last in the book, which may be my favorite)He uses flowers, plants, and the natural world a lot in these poems, placing humans into the natural world--and clearly people are part of nature.