Jericho Brown

How did you become a writer?

I got really excited about reading poetry and about its possibilities when I was a kid. And I wanted, then, to make things that could create feeling in people in the same way that poems I was reading created feelings in me. I just never stopped wanting that.

When and where do you write? 

Whenever I can. On my lap. Right now, because of how I’m leaning, it’s a cream-colored couch in the Hurst apartment for visiting writers at Washington University. Sometimes, it looks like that tray that comes out of the back of the chair in front of me on an airplane. My gray bare kitchen table. Or my gray kitchen table with mail and books strewn all over it when I haven’t cleared it of clutter. Or the glass dining room table. Most often, though, my lap, and sometimes, in front of a window where I can see my front yard or my back yard. 

I wake up and eat something. Then I read something by Ernest Holmes, usually just a few paragraphs. Then I pray. Then I open my laptop and see what lines are in the single file I have of all my lines that eventually (and magically, it seems) turn into poems over time. I do that for about an hour and a half to two hours and then I stop because by that time two to three hours have passed, and I know it because I’m hungry again. So I get up again to eat, and that means I’m done writing for the day unless some unexpected inspiration appears.

What are you working on now? 

These questions. I'm giving them my all.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No, because I don't think typing is writing as much as thinking is.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

"Never say no." -Nikki Giovanni

What’s your advice to new writers?

"Never say no, but always use condoms unless you have another plan in mind."

Jericho Brown is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. His third collection, The Tradition, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2019. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, TIME magazine, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University.