He has earned critical acclaim and a Guggenheim Fellowship for his poetry, but Jericho Brown is still learning from Emory College undergraduates in his writing seminars.
Brown was thinking of those students when he realized he needed to challenge some of the existing rules of poetry as he started exploring in his own work the contradictory myths of our nation and the vulnerable black and gay bodies within it.
Students also have the option to co-major in playwriting with Theater Studies and to pursue an honors thesis.
“We have an expectation for excellence, not because all of our students have to become Pulitzer Prize winners,” Brown says.
Two additional poets are expected to join the faculty next year, as is an additional award-winning fiction writer, Tiphanie Yanique.
“Jericho – and his approach to both his own work and that of students, colleagues and more – was an integral facet of my decision to join him and the rest of the distinguished faculty in Emory's writing program,” Cooper says.The result was Brown inventing a new poetry form he calls the duplex.The new structure melds the formality of a sonnet, the inline rhyme and repetition of the ghazal, and duality of the American blues, all in nine to eleven syllables per line.Outside of professional writing, alumni thrive in a variety of other fields, from Brian Tolleson, the founding partner of the communications and brand strategy firms Lexicon and Bark Bark, to Lauren Giles, a corporate lawyer and partner with Alston & Bird, to Kristian Bush, the singer-songwriter who makes up half of the Grammy-winning country music duo Sugarland. Brown notes that graduating seniors are on the path to medical school, Ph D programs in English and highly-competitive writing programs and seminars. Brown have made me a more thoughtful, structural and daring artist,” says senior Nathan Blansett, who chose Emory because it allowed him to be both a poet and a scholar of poetry.“The intentional symmetries and asymmetries of my thesis’ selected poems are indebted to him and our work together,” adds Blansett, who worked closely with Brown on the manuscript that serves as his honors thesis and will start his MFA in poetry this fall at Johns Hopkins University.” The poems in “The Tradition” include allusions to everything from Greek myths to Phillis Wheatley, the first published female African-American poet.Brown wrote much of the book between Thanksgiving Break and Martin Luther King Jr.It’s also the title of five poems in “The Tradition,” his third collection, published earlier this month.“My students try the things I say they can’t get away with,” Brown says. I created work for myself because of them, wanting to subvert forms and make new ones.” The first “Duplex” poem in the volume hints at the harrowing images and vivid observations Brown masterfully captures in deceptively simple and short rhymes.His mother’s family members were Mississippi sharecroppers who fled a lynch mob claiming that his grandfather’s brother had shot a white man.His father’s family faced the same kind of terrorism in a small northern Louisiana town after a female bus driver claimed Brown’s uncle had hit her.