Poet Jericho Brown Closes 2016 Visiting Writers Series
By Daniel Sheehan | Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
On Thursday, March 10, The UMass Visiting Writers Series welcomed its final guest, Jericho Brown, noted poet and scholar. Brown’s reading took place in Memorial Hall, his selected poems ranging from his first book, “Please,” to his most recent book, “The New Testament.”
The words from Brown's poems did not just march by in uniformity—rather, they pulled a range of emotions and responses from the audience that required a personal introspection and awareness to digest. At the same time, Brown's reading style made apparent the careful lyricism present in his work. The first poem of the evening, “Flower,” found beauty in defiance. Brown spoke as if kicked in the stomach; each breath and silence echoed with pain, and every word was forced through gritted teeth.
The evening continued with an array of poems, taking each member of the audience along for a painful, joyful, and fulfilling journey of the soul. “At The End of Hell,” wherein male sexuality—often portrayed as brutal or primative—became an innocent, careful love full of kindness. In contrast, the poem “Host” brought to light the dehumanizing effects of online dating and hookup culture through a series of text messages and quotes from user profiles, apparently fictional, but eerily familiar.
Ultimately, the joy in Jericho Brown’s work lies in a complex beauty, which is felt even in the darkest of Brown’s words. This beauty mirrors both the hopeful and heartbreaking parts of us—the good, the bad and all that lies between. His unique insight into these shared spaces we all privately inhabit made Brown an engaging and exciting conclusion to the Visiting Writers Series.