Interview with Jericho Brown
ICL: What authors, poets, books, poems, stories, writing do you return to again and again?
I, like everybody else in this country who can read worth a damn right now, am a really big fan of Danielle Evans' fiction.
ICL: How much of New Orleans, Louisiana—its folklore and oral tradition, persist in your poetry?
I hope that my poetry makes any and all of my experiences clear. I get really excited when I'm referred to as a Southern poet or a Louisiana poet or a New Orleans poet or a black poet or an extremely attractive poet because those locations are within me just as much as they are regions on a literal or metaphorical map. I want everything about me to persist in my poetry.
ICL: Your work has been described as "muscular," "majestic," and "alive" and you've been quoted as saying that "poems are to be felt before they are understood." Is this a conscious endeavor, and, if it is, what techniques are central to accomplishing this?
Wow. Who said muscular? You think they were talking about my poems or about Kyle Dargan? Must be some mix-up. At any rate, the practice of writing poetry is just that—a practice. The more you try at it, the better you become. I think getting in the habit of reading and writing as often as possible allows for the poems to happen to you, to come through you in a way that's much more enjoyable than trying to force a poem onto the page.
ICL: You're also of the school of thought that knowing exactly what is going on in a poem is not what makes it attractive. How does this inform your teaching practice at the University of San Diego?
My students are quite aware that I'm much more interested in clear sentences, lively metaphors, and interesting juxtapositions than I am in "stories in verse" that are supposedly important because they actually happened. In a workshop, I probably make comments about the narrative in a poem after talking about things like voice, tone, and language.
ICL: If you weren't focused on writing, what would you be doing?