Read Jericho Brown’s poem ‘The Tradition’

Read Jericho Brown’s poem ‘The Tradition’

Poet Jericho Brown recently joined the “American Masters: Creative Spark” podcast to break down the process behind writing the titular poem of his 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection “The Tradition.” Starting with drafting process, Brown walks host Joe Skinner through the path he took to discover the final version of the poem, presented as a sonnet. 

As part of a continuing Ballerina Book Club partnership with “American Masters,” we’re sharing the poem “The Tradition” below. Catch the full interview with the Brown on “American Masters: Creative Spark” wherever you listen to podcasts.

“The Tradition”

Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Stargazer. 
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath. 
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

Copyright © Jericho Brown. Reprinted with permission from the author.