Poet Jericho Brown awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

By April Hunt | Emory Report | April 6, 2016

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Jericho Brown, associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship. Courtesy photo

Jericho Brown, associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced today.

Brown, a poet, is among 175 recipients who were chosen from nearly 3,000 applicants in the United States and Canada. The amounts given vary, but are designed to help fund writers, scholars and scientists in their work.

Brown, traveling in Houston to receive the Langston Hughes Society Award and give the Society's keynote address at this year's College Language Association Convention, says he appreciated the award broadly, for honoring his decision to be a writer.

“It means the world to me that there is some recognition from the outside world, to let Nathasha Trethewey and Walter Kalaidjian know they were right to bring me to Emory University,” Brown says of the former U.S. Poet Laureate who heads the Creative Writing program and the English Department chairman.

“It’s always nice to know when I am writing a poem, the lights won’t go out on me.”

Robin Forman, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, calls the award a “well-deserved” honor for Brown.

“We knew even before his arrival at Emory in 2012 that Jericho was an enormously important and powerful poet,” Forman says. “he Guggenheim Fellowship highlights the impact he has had on our already remarkable creative writing community with his infectious intensity and creative energy.”

Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggeheim Foundation, called Brown and the other winners “the best of the best” in a press release announcing the awards.

“It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do,” Hirsch says.

Winning the prestigious award will allow Brown to work on a new book, entitled "Character."

The collection of poems will focus on society’s obsession with celebrity and will be written in the voices of people from literature, the visual arts and film.

For instance, one piece features Brown addressing Rufus, a character from James Baldwin’s novel, “Another Country.”

Another piece, “Bullet Points,” has been shared widely online after Buzzfeed published the poem Brown wrote in reaction to coverage of high-profile police shootings and police brutality.

“I am working to have my poetry informed by other types of art,” Brown says. “It’s good to have this award come my way, because it reminds me that yes, this work matters and I am what I say I am. I’m a poet, and poetry makes a difference in the world.”

The honor is just the latest fellowship for Brown, who has previously been the recipient of fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, Brown’s work has been published in The New Republic, The New Yorker and The Best American Poetry. 

Brown’s first book, "Please", won the 2009 American Book Award. His second book, "The New Testament," won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.