Acclaimed poet Jericho Brown, winner of the American Book Award, visited UNC Asheville on Nov. 14, 2019, to engage with students and present a poetry reading to the UNC Asheville community.
Brown, who is the recipient of many prizes and grants, read poems from his books, The New Testament and Please, as well as his recently released book, The Tradition, which includes several poems in a form he invented called the duplex—a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues.
Brown also took time to address questions from the audience, and spoke on the value of poetry. “This is the thing about poetry. Poetry literally creates feeling. Isn’t that something, that it can do that in a group like this? And it can do that in a room where you are all by yourself. And people want to question whether or not that has value. It’s fascinating to me.”
It’s a question that concerns Brown’s students at Emory University, as well, where he serves as associate professor and director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University.
“The biggest worry my students have—I love my students because they are morally ethical beings in ways that I was not when I was 20 years old—my students are like, ‘we want to be at Standing Rock, we want to be at the location where people are protesting, we want to be where the unarmed person has just been murdered by police, we want to do this and that other thing in the street for our natural world which is coming to extinction,’” Brown said. “And they mean that seriously. And they come to me and ask if it’s ok, in spite of those desires, for them to write poems. Because somebody has given them the idea that writing poetry is a narcissistic act. And that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Rather, Brown said, poetry enables a relationship with beauty, “and that relationship has value,” he said.
Brown’s reading was the final installment of this semester’s Visiting Writer Series. The series will continue next semester with a reading by Arthur Flowers on Jan. 28 and Natanya Ann Pulley on March 19. For more information about the series as well as updates regarding upcoming readings, visit https://english.unca.edu/engage/visiting-writers-series/.