WSU hosted the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta as part of the Visiting Writers’ Series.
Jericho Brown is a black man who grew up in the American South. The audience laughed throughout his talk, but his poetry often shows the dark side of his upbringing.
“I will not shoot myself in the head,” Brown said, while reciting one of his poems. “And if I do, I promise you I will not do it in a police car, while handcuffed, or in the jail cell of a town I only know the name of because I have to drive through it to get home.”
Alyssa Zi-Li Chang, a student speaker, introduced Brown. She spoke about the organizations that are fighting for social and political rights in the United States’ growing culture of oppression and terror. She said Brown is one of the voices of resistance.
“I really like it when people say nice things about me,” Brown said. “I think it’s a good idea to practice. You’re always welcome to give me a call.”
While Brown spoke at the event, he did a lot more than just read his poetry. Immediately after his poem about police brutality, he said he was happy that people can be proud of being a nerd.
Brown has written three books of poetry. His poetry has been featured in publications such as Buzzfeed, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The New York Times, according to the Visiting Writers’ Series website.
“The responsibility of the poet is to tell the truth,” he said. “So I’m going to tell you, you do not have to like these poems to buy this book.”
Brown alternated between dark poetry and humorous commentary. He made light of himself and other poets referring to Greek myth as a nerdy practice.
He said “poets can’t get enough of Greek myth,” immediately before admitting that the next poem he was going to read contained part of “The Odyssey” in it.
Brown compared talking with WSU students to being on a really good date.
Cameron McGill, co-director of the series, said the Visiting Writers’ Series is run by the English Department to bring literature events to the WSU Campus. It is tied in with the common reading.
He said the series brings authors and poets of diverse backgrounds to share their work and experiences with students and faculty.
McGill said Brown is one of the best poets and speakers writing today.